Groundbreaking devolution proposal to be explored by London boroughs

13 February 2015 in Council and democracy and Mayor
Nine boroughs representing a region of London bigger than any other UK city are today (Friday) setting out their demands for devolution to support improvements for residents and recognise the region’s role at the heart of the Capital’s economic growth.
Nine boroughs attending Local London conference
Directly elected mayors and leaders from Barking & Dagenham, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest are meeting at a conference to build the case for a devolution settlement that will help unlock the unrivalled growth potential of the region for the benefit of local residents, London and the UK as a whole.
The conference titled Local London: Driving Growth through Devolution is taking place at Stratford Old Town Hall in Newham. A Statement of Intent signed by all participating boroughs will be issued after the conference.
Recent leaps forward for Scotland and Greater Manchester have created a renewed energy and focus on the devolution debate. The boroughs recognise that the Mayor of London and London Assembly have an important strategic role for the Capital, but this structure alone does not take account of the distinct characteristics of regions within London.
Together, the nine boroughs have a population of more than 2.5 million. This population is growing at a rate above twice the estimate for England. The opportunity for business growth, jobs and housing development across the region is unparalleled. Equally the boroughs share many complex and significant challenges, ranging from low household incomes to poorer health outcomes.
A prospectus for devolution will be agreed at the event detailing the shared vision and ambition of the boroughs across key policy areas setting out what the councils jointly want to see devolved and what they expect to achieve as a result. The following areas will be explored in detail: Housing, Employment, Transport, Education and Skills, Business Growth and Health and Social Care. The prospectus will be used to build a business case which can be presented to London regional government and Central Government setting out the powers and financial freedoms the nine boroughs are seeking to deliver effective change.
The prospectus, Local London - Driving growth through devolution (PDF) has now been published.
Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham and Chair of the Growth Boroughs, said: “The Scottish referendum has reignited the debate about the unfinished business of devolution for England’s cities and regions. It is important that London boroughs, with their distinct and different characteristics make a major contribution to this debate.
“This conference is the first step in the process of identifying the powers needed to make a real difference in our communities. Together, we can then start to build a case to go forward to government to challenge them to help get us a better deal. I am committed to working with the other eight councils attending the conference to deliver our shared vision releasing the true potential of our area.”
Councillor Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council and Chair of the North East London Strategic Alliance (NELSA) said: “This is an opportunity to stand together and get our voice heard. In numbers comes strength and for the benefit of our residents, here in Waltham Forest and those of our neighbours, it is important that we act together to maximise the potential for jobs, growth and investment in this area of London.”
Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney and Chair of London Councils, said: “Devolution and reforming the way public services are delivered are essential to ensure that London remains a great place to live and work. Residents want us to tackle the issues that matter to them, such as housing, transport and school places. They want the opportunity to succeed in the jobs market, and employers want people with the right skills so their businesses can grow.
“Whitehall’s ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is failing Londoners and threatening their future quality of life. Devolution will instead enable boroughs to make a difference on these key issues, tailoring services to local needs and being accountable for the results.”
Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, Councillor Darren Rodwell, said: “Barking and Dagenham is clear about its growth ambitions and the investment in infrastructure and skills necessary to deliver them and realise opportunities for our communities and businesses. We are fully committed to working in partnership to achieve our objectives. We are already doing that very effectively with the Mayor and the GLA and now need to strengthen the collective voice and impact of Barking and Dagenham and our partners across North and East London.
“Today's conference is a culmination of preliminary meetings which we hope will put Barking and Dagenham and North and East London firmly on the map. Together we represent nearly a third of the population of London and we are serving notice for a fairer deal for our residents.”
Councillor Doug Taylor, Leader of Enfield Council, said “As democratically elected community leaders, local councils are best placed to make decisions about the vital services residents rely on. We understand the complex needs of our residents and strongly support proposals to shift more decision making to a sub-regional or individual borough level.”
Councillor Denise Hyland, Leader of the Royal Borough of Greenwich said: "The Royal Borough of Greenwich is one of a growing number of councils that is calling for more powers to be devolved to a local level so we can better meet the needs of our local residents. Other parts of the country have benefited from being allowed to have a greater say in their own affairs and these discussions will explore ways in which we could work with other London boroughs to make even more local decisions that affect local people. The nine boroughs involved in the discussions have a combined population of more than 2.5 million and we are at the heart of London’s growth. We believe we can work more closely together to achieve the huge potential that exists in this part of London for the good of our residents, as well as for the Capital and the UK as a whole.”
Leader of Havering, Councillor Roger Ramsey, said: “Havering has a good track record of working with partners, in the interests of local people. These discussions could open up new ways to improve the quality of life for our residents, so it’s right that we play our part in exploring new approaches to the big issues that matter to us all – like jobs, education and transport.”
Councillor Jas Athwal, Leader of Redbridge Council, said “This is an exciting opportunity to explore devolution in neighbouring boroughs. In the current climate, it’s really important that we look to identify new ways of working and innovative thinking to make sure we’re delivering services in the best way possible for our residents. This is a really big step forward towards doing that.”
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, added: “East London is a thriving and dynamic area which is quickly becoming the powerhouse of the country. With Canary Wharf, the City and the fantastic regeneration of Stratford post Olympics it is only fitting for the nine councils to be given more powers to enable us to fully realise the potential of the region.”
“Tower Hamlets is a vibrant and energetic community and our achievements in attracting businesses to the borough, our excellent schools and our housing developments have made a significant contribution to the East London success story. We are interested in learning more about what we can achieve by working more closely with our neighbouring boroughs. At a time when local government faces challenging financial decisions, it has to be worth discussing ideas that could potentially further accelerate improvements for the benefit of local people.”