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Devolution : Odds On Failure!

4 November, 2015

I suppose its a bit premature to be writing about why the current devolution proposals failed when we haven't seen most of the settlements yet but the omens are not good. Devolution for me is about so much more than economics. It has to be about better transport, better healthcare, better schools, better policing, better job opportunities; in fact, better public services in general and better opportunities for all. It should be about empowering local people at all levels. It is about tackling problems at the right level, some may be best sorted at the national level, others at a really local level, such as the parish, but many can only be solved at a regional level.

We have to recognise that as individuals, and even as groups, we cannot sort out all these issues ourselves. We have to work with others, hence we have local government structures and we elect people to run things on our behalf. Problems arise when the structures are flawed and when the people elected to run things do not have the competence to carry out their tasks.

Devolution provides us with the opportunity to change the structures in order to cope with the type of developments we need to undertake, to solve many of our current problems. The challenges being thrown up, however, are of a size and scale that are outside the experience of most, if not all, of our current local politicians. Some enlightened people recognise this and are encouraging others to come together to form regions which have the critical mass capable of dealing with these challenges and of translating them into oppotunities. In other words we would be able to tackle issues of regional importance which should help to promote both local and regional successes. Others see things purely on a local basis which could severely hamper both local and regional success as there would be nothing in place to secure the measures necessary for regional cohesion which is also essential to promote local wellbeing, including prosperity.

So what might work for a small town or even a city in, say, West or South Yorkshire will not work for the region. Even scaling up your small town solution will not work because there are other factors to take into consideration (an example might be concentrating on co-ordinating bus and rail transport whilst ignoring the fact that there is no airport). We need to look at the regional perspective and we desperately need people with the talent to be able to do this. We need local leaders with vision who can appreciate how best to solve problems at all levels, who can bring people together, who can work with others from diverse backgrounds, who have the ability to work with other authorities at all levels in order to get the job done and maximise the chances of success for the region which in turn should benefit all local authorities within the region and the population as a whole.

Devolution not only requires new structures to be in place, it also requires people with the necessary talent to make these structures work for the benefit of all. There is little evidence to suggest that current proposals will produce the right structures and even less to suggest that we have the right people to get the most out of any settlement, with perhaps a few notable exceptions.

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