Counties call for new, ‘fairer’ deal following general election

The government should reach out to county communities and deliver them a ‘fairer’ deal, a new report says.

The report, A new deal for counties: Our plan for government, which was published by the County Councils Network (CCN), argues that the government should change its relationship with rural England and and address their concerns over funding.

County leaders have demanded that, following the general election, the Conservative government delivers a new and fairer funding package that ensures fairness for residents, but also trusts and empowers them.

CCN argues that counties cannot keep delivering high-quality services whilst having the lowest funding, and demands that Whitehall works with counties to develop alternative long-term funding arrangements.

The document also highlights the councils’ ambition to assist the government’s housebuilding drive through an enhanced role for county councils. Counties suggest they can work better with local government partners to deliver more homes and essential infrastructure by upscaling to strategic planning over a county area, reforming developer contributions, and bringing together planning and infrastructure functions.

The plan for government also suggests: a long-term solution to social care funding; new powers for Health & Well-being Boards to drive integration and oversee Sustainability & Transformation Plans; schools funding reforms continue; a review of the role, remit and geographies of Local Enterprise Partnerships; and more focus on the growing pressures in children’s social care and learning disabilities.

The publication comes as the CCN seeks clarification from DCLG on its policy position following recent comments by Jack Berry, the Northern Powerhouse Minister, that devolution be confined to Cities.

CCN member councils constitute the largest single grouping of local authorities in terms of population, geography, economic growth, taxation and public services.

Paul Carter, CCN chairman, said: “Counties have the ambition, track record and appetite to do much more. We look forward to working with central government on new, fair and constructive way forward.

“For this to become a reality we need government to work with counties to deliver a “new deal” for our areas that delivers fairness for our residents, but also trusts and empowers us.

“We cannot continue to deliver high quality frontline services and push through innovation when we are the lowest funded authorities. If new deals are being agreed in other parts of the United Kingdom, then so should the areas that form the backbone of England’s society and economy.

“If devolution can be achieved in our great cities, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, it can work for the great counties of England. The potential of our economies and the desire of our 26 million residents for local decision making cannot be overlooked.”

Simon Edwards, CCN director, said: “After extensive engagement with our members following county elections, and building on our recent Your County Matters campaign, this comprehensive publication sets out an ambitious blueprint on how counties can drive through reform locally and provide solutions to major challenges nationally, from social care to house-building, to ensuring the economy is growing successfully.

“As a strong cross party organisation, CCN wants to work constructively with this government and influence officials across Whitehall and the wider sector; presenting evidence-based solutions at a time of uncertainty in Westminster.

“CCN will continue to stand up for its members in ensuring that this administration’s promises are enacted, especially the fairer funding review. At the same time, government can only deliver a successful Industrial Strategy if it places more of an emphasis on county economies and we work towards ambitious and appropriate devolution settlements for their areas.”

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