London boroughs take first steps towards devolution

26 March 2015 in Council and democracy and Mayor
Eight London boroughs with a combined population of more than 2.2 million have published a pioneering prospectus detailing how devolution could work in their sub region of the capital.
With this prospectus, Leaders and Mayors from Barking and Dagenham, Enfield, Greenwich, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest have taken the first step towards presenting a case for greater devolution of powers from central government and London regional government.
The Devolution Prospectus outlines a vision for a new approach to decision-making and service delivery to unlock the potential of these eight boroughs. It follows a successful conference held last month, which saw political lines crossed with the boroughs coming to a broad agreement about the need for a new settlement.
Some of these new powers set out in greater detail in the prospectus could include:
On a sub-regional level:
  • A pooled budget for adult skills to give borough partnerships a formal role in information sharing, planning and decision making for this area.
  • Budget holding and commissioning for employment services. This would enable councils to tie into existing activity to tackle barriers and causes of unemployment.
  • Removing restrictions on borrowing related to housing to enable councils to build more homes.
  • A stronger role in transport planning and control over local bus routes.
  • On a borough level:
  • A strengthened role in town centre planning and regulation
  • Power to intervene in any schools which are coasting or failing
  • Greater powers over incentives and penalties for local businesses. This would help tackle the proliferation of hot food takeaways and cheap, easily accessible alcohol.
  • Local authority licensing regimes such as Newham and Waltham Forest Councils’ respective private sector licensing schemes.
Following the publication of this prospectus, intended as a leaders’ and mayors’ discussion document, work will continue between the eight boroughs to develop a business case establishing where devolved powers would be best exercised at the sub regional level.
Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham Council and Chair of the Growth Boroughs said: “This prospectus sets out an exciting vision for our eight boroughs, outlining how devolution could unleash the true potential of this area. Our boroughs offer the greatest opportunity for growth and development in the UK and we need to ensure the opportunity is not missed.
“The joint commitment demonstrated by all participating mayors and leaders show exactly why central government needs to pay close attention to conversations happening in this part of London. With a population of more than 2.2 million, we cannot be ignored. By exploring this further, we can help secure a better deal not only for our sub-region but for the capital and the rest of the UK.”
Councillor Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council and Chair of the North East London Strategic Alliance (NELSA), said: “A bold new approach like this would represent a landmark shift in the local government landscape – enabling our eight boroughs to deliver real change to more than 2.2 million Londoners.
“It would be a huge mistake if central government failed to see the potential of this devolution plan, because the current broad-brush system hampers sub-regional growth and development and restricts us from effecting the level of change hundreds of thousands of residents want – such as building more homes, helping more people into work and having greater powers to support schools, businesses and local investment.”
Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “The publication of this prospectus is the result of the work across all eight boroughs. It not only outlines the opportunities for growth across our boroughs but importantly, sets out how devolution could unleash the potential of our areas and benefit our 2.2 million residents.
“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 Greater London Authority and now need to strengthen the collective voice and impact of Barking and Dagenham and our partners across North and East London.”
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: “Each of our boroughs offer huge potential for future growth, the expansion of new and exciting industries and great places to live, study and work.  We all have our proud histories, unique strengths and examples of how each of us are transforming our local communities for the better.
“These exciting proposals combine the very best strengths of each borough and deliver to the UK economy levels of economic and employment growth which far outweigh the sum of our individual parts. 
“They also ensure that residents benefit from greater support to increase their skills and access to employment, that we remove the damaging barriers that prevent us from building thousands of much needed homes, and that collectively we work together to ensure the whole region reaps the rewards of future transport and infrastructure development.”
Councillor Roger Ramsey, Leader of Havering Council said: “Local councils are best placed to make the right decisions for their residents. The devolution of additional powers and money to individual councils or groups of councils could help us achieve even more for local people. We would echo the calls of neighbouring boroughs for more powers to be exercised locally, in the best interests of our residents and tax payers.”
Councillor Jas Athwal, Leader of Redbridge Council, said “In the current climate, it’s fundamentally important that we identify new ways of working and innovative thinking to deliver services in the best possible way for our residents. Devolving more powers at a local level will allow us to consider new ways of providing key services including jobs, housing, education and transport. We’re working together to secure the best deal for our residents.”
Lutfur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said:  “The growth and development opportunities that exist across our sub-region of East London are currently unique to the capital.
“With eight mayors and borough leaders jointly committed to harnessing and maximising those collective possibilities, East London could become an exciting new powerhouse of London and the wider UK. Our vision is to leverage the best possible outcomes for our 2.2 million residents, to maximise our collective resources and to support the future that our sub-region deserves.”