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Health, skills and infrastructure key to devolution success

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A year on from the election for the first metro-mayors, a new British Academy publication looks at devolution in practice in health and social care, in skills and in infrastructure.

As the new Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government takes up his position, this publication informs the debate on how devolution works and how adapting public services to different regions may make the case for ‘place-based’ initiatives.

The British Academy convened local government representatives, academics, employers and civil servants in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester as part of its ongoing project on the government and governance of England. These meetings discussed the devolution of health and social care, skills and infrastructure, issues where communities could see the difference devolution can make to their lives.

The roundtable meetings found an overwhelming support for devolution and a desire to make it work. The question that remained was how to tailor services to local needs while avoiding a ‘postcode lottery’ where services are good in some areas but poor in others.

Participants also agreed that structures and frameworks matter less than the people within them working together. A mayor will not ensure greater collaboration and communication between employers and skills providers to ensure that skills are relevant to the jobs of the present and the future. But mayors do have a role making a case for their area and articulating their priorities.

Lastly, there was widespread agreement on the value of integration and place-based policy, as featured in the government’s Industrial Strategy. With the government promising to publish its Devolution Framework imminently, this publication demonstrates the value of ‘place-based’ interventions and provides some insight into how these may work.

The British Academy will launch a publication in July examining several issues around how England is funded.

Read Governing England: Devolution and public services

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