Leaders of England’s largest councils, through the County Councils Network (CCN), have urged new ministers to ensure that their pledge to unleash the potential of the country does not ignore the needs of ‘left behind areas’ in shire counties.
A post-election analysis from the County Councils Network (CCN), which represents 36 county local authorities, shows that 43% of the new seats (22 out of 51) won by the Conservatives in England… are in shire counties, whilst 54 out of the 100 ‘left-behind’ towns identified by the government in its Stronger Towns Fund are in these areas.
… a new document… sets out how the government’s policies can help ‘unleash the potential of counties’. County leaders call for their areas to receive a fair share of funding for public services, more investment in economic growth, and an extension of devolved powers to the shires.
The CCN argues that a ‘misconception’ that shire counties are all affluent and city-centric regional devolution policies could prevent them being able to invest in their towns and deprived communities as part of the levelling up agenda. These councils span the North and Midlands alongside rural and coastal communities in areas of the south, west and east…..
The priorities outlined in the document are:
- Sustainable & Fair Funding: Providing a multi-year funding settlement to meet councils’ spending need, delivering the fair funding review and reforming local government finance so it is more efficient.
- Reforming Adults & Children’s Social Care: A solution to social care funding and reforming care services across the life cycle; improving integration with health, investing in prevention and reforming special educational needs and disabilities legislation.
- Devolution For All: Extending ‘ambitious’ devolution deals to county areas to enable counties to access fresh powers in skills, transport, and regional growth.
- Creating Communities: A more strategic approach to planning, matched by new infrastructure financing, while enabling counties to continue to provide culture services, improve community safety and wellbeing.
- Growing Our Economies: Creating the conditions for thriving economies in our communities by utlising the role of county authorities in place-based growth, devolving skills budgets and investing in transport and connectivity.
- Tackling Climate Change: Equipping authorities with new powers and resources to tackle climate change and respond to extreme weather, including a fair distribution of new flood defence investment, particularly for rural and remote areas…..
… The document also calls for the government to abandon a ‘city centric policy obsession’ in Whitehall to help unleash the potential of counties, such as:
- Allowing bids from rural areas to access the government’s flagship £4.1bn Local Public Transport Fund to help reverse the decline in local bus services in county towns and rural areas.
- A more balanced distribution of central infrastructure funding between counties and cities and targeting the new ‘pothole fund’ on county areas.
- Reviewing the future of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and whether they should be the main vehicle to deliver local industrial strategies.
- Equipping authorities with new powers and resources to tackle climate change and respond to extreme weather, including a fair distribution of new flood defence investment, particularly for rural and remote areas…