Cllr. Andrew Burns – The importance of cultural change to help embed devolution

*Taken from Cllr. Burns’ talk at the CCIN’s Fringe Event at the LGA Conference – 30.06.15*

Andrew_Burns_9_200x200Three key points are clear. Firstly, for local devolution to be successful there has to be a fundamentally new relationship between councils and citizens. Secondly, as part of this, there needs to be a different form of local leadership, where elected members and others are willing to ‘let go’ and become less risk averse. And thirdly, we need to create appropriate platforms for devolution that align with the key needs, relationships and resources of local areas.

But even if all of these actions are undertaken, and I believe many local councils the length and breadth of the UK have indeed embraced this agenda, the outcomes from this innovative new approach to local service delivery will be severely muted if local government is not re-empowered with meaningful economic policy and funding levers.

If we’re serious about providing the basis for a radically new approach to local service delivery, which subsequently leads to the creation of thriving local economies, then we must surely give our local councils the tools in the toolbox to make this happen?

And, in recent months, we’ve seen the publication of two important studies; both of which have charted a path for the further devolution of financial freedoms to local councils.

In Scotland, the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy has laid out radical new proposals to re-empower Scottish democracy; and in England, the Independent Commission on Local Government Finance has outlined a programme for reform that would lay the foundations for a local government funding system which would be stable for the long term, stimulate economic growth and enable local people to invest in their own local priorities.

In a nutshell, these two sets of proposals would ensure local councils were given the funding levers to make a real local difference.

So, for me we need to implement this double-devolution of economic policy powers and funding powers straight to local councils.