Here’s a summary of the Regional devolution chapter from our “Growing a stronger local democracy” report, published 30th June 2017.
A taster of our findings about Regional devolution
Regional devolution is an ongoing journey with a future that is as yet unclear. We’re focusing on what we can do in Kirklees to make the most of the opportunities. We believe that we should start with the local and evolve our regional democracy from there.
Devolution must be rooted in local communities
The top-down, economic focus of regional devolution must change. We want a democratically focussed devolution that starts with local communities and grows from the ground up. It should be rooted in the priorities and outcomes that are important to citizens in our towns and villages.
We need the different levels of our democracy (from neighbourhoods to towns, districts, regions and national government) to connect. What does our democratic “family tree” look like? It’s not easy for citizens to understand those relationships. It should be clear who has responsibility for which decisions, how citizens can get involved, and how we can hold decision-makers to account.
We welcome regional devolution
We welcome the idea of devolution beyond Westminster. Done well, it can provide opportunities and potential solutions to the challenges we face.
Local identity matters
Our history, and the history of our places, is important to local people and to councillors. Citizens feel a real sense of concern that towns and villages have lost their identity and lost their connection with the council when becoming Kirklees. Local people are worried that devolution may further weaken our sense of identity. This is why devolution must be rooted in our communities.
Citizens need to know what’s happening
Many of our local citizens, and many councillors, are unclear about what regional devolution is or what it will mean for them in the places where they live and represent. Public understanding of the opportunities and implications of regional devolution is minimal. Over time this needs to change.
Councillors should lead the dialogue
Local councillors should be leading the dialogue with, and on behalf of, our citizens. In this way, we will make sure that Kirklees is strongly placed to influence and access the opportunities presented by devolution.
Democratic accountability is essential
Whilst the focus should be on outcomes, we want to emphasise the importance of democratic accountability and transparency as part of regional devolution. Any decision-making model should be democratically legitimate.
Our recommendations about Regional devolution
National government should provide clearer information about the purpose of (and processes for) regional devolution. This should:
- Be clear about the outcomes that national government is seeking to achieve through regional devolution.
- Provide greater clarity about the role, responsibilities and expectations of an Elected Mayor.
- Provide greater clarity in terms of the power and responsibilities that exist at the relevant tiers of governance (region, district and local).This should involve more transparency about financial issues.
The West Yorkshire Combined Authority should improve the quality and flow of information in order to help citizens and local councillors understand (and have better awareness of) regional issues and their relevance. This should include improving the way in which its democratic content is produced, published and communicated.
Kirklees Council should review and improve the ways in which we support senior councillors to carry out their role in the context of the wider region. This should involve improving the information flow, in both directions, between the City Region and local areas. We should also make sure that all our councillors receive timely information about the wider regional devolution agenda.
Kirklees Council should engage with local citizens to address the issue of local identity. Local devolution and governance are an ongoing challenge. We should be clearer about our local identity so that we can make a strong and powerful contribution to regional discussions.
Kirklees Council should develop local approaches to strategic planning and priority setting (within different parts of Kirklees), based on the findings of our engagement work with citizens on local identity.
Kirklees Council, together with our partners, should do some pilot work to explore innovative approaches to planning and priority setting in a particular area of Kirklees. This work should make use of some of the successful practice that the Democracy Commission have discovered as part of our work.
Our evidence about Regional devolution
Local democracy roadshows
Public inquiry evidence
- Jonathan Carr-West, LGiU
- Rob Vincent, Electoral Commissioner and former chief executive of two councils
- Ed Hammond, Centre for Public Scrutiny
- Prof Andrew Taylor, University of Sheffield
- Adrian Lythgo, former Chief Executive of Kirklees Council
- Cllr Robert Light, Chair of Scrutiny, WYCA (West Yorkshire Combined Authority)
- Neil McInroy, Centre for Local Economic Strategies
- Katie Ghose, Electoral Reform Society
- Tony Browne and Theo Bass, FutureGov and Nesta
- Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council
- Rebecca Cox, Local Government Association
- Anthony Zacharzewski, Democratic Society
- Prof Robin Hambleton, English Devolution guide
Discussions and debates
- Kirklees democracy debate
- Labour group (PDF)
- Conservative group (PDF)
- Liberal Democrat group (PDF)
- Green and Independent groups (PDF)