History lecturer backs plans for National Devolution Council

Published: 29 March 2014 at 15:15

Richard Carr

Dr Richard Carr outlines proposals in the Fabian Review

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The Labour Party should create a National Devolution Council (NDC) to 'hard-wire the devolution of power' after 2015 and improve the economic situation outside London, according to Dr Richard Carr of Anglia Ruskin University.

Dr Carr, Lecturer and member of the University's Labour History Research Unit, sets out his proposals in the first of a series of essays published for the Fabian Review.

The NDC would function in a manner similar to the Office for Budget Responsibility - assessing the government's record on devolving powers, outlining where the devolution agenda may go next, and occasionally making public interventions to criticise or praise the government of the day.

Dr Carr, writing with government and media relations specialist Dominic Rustecki, argues that the Labour opposition should set up the NDC in shadow form by the autumn of this year, and charge it with ensuring any future Labour government devolves significant powers from Whitehall to local authorities.

In his foreword to the essays, Lord Maurice Glasman, key adviser to Labour Policy Review Chief Jon Cruddas, notes: "This series is an important contribution that deserves a wide audience. It will go down as a very important step towards the restoration of England, its counties and cities as political communities that are part of the body politic of our country."

Commenting on the need for the NDC, Dr Carr said: "On regional banks, skills training, and the pressing issue of getting councils to deliver more houses, Ed Miliband is getting a lot right. Yet more needs to be done to translate good intention into concrete policy.

"Our politics can no longer just be determined by what suits London and the South East. We need a critical friend in Whitehall constantly making the case for the devolution of powers and money to local authorities across our country.

"A National Devolution Council led by a prominent figurehead can be the catalyst to unleash the potential of communities from Cornwall to Durham."

Co-author Dominic Rustecki said: "Over the past few years the relationship between central and local government has become overly adversarial.

"We argue for a new politics of positivity where meaningful collaboration between councils and Whitehall on the one hand, and public and private sector providers on the other, can deliver for the greater national good."

Today's essay is the first of three to be published over the next two weeks, and outlines the nature of the NDC. The essay states: "The NDC would provide annual reports on what powers should be devolved during the current and next parliamentary session, assess progress on current devolutionary legislation in passage, and outline where the devolution agenda should be looking over the next five years.

"It would have a small permanent staff, be based within the Cabinet Office, and would pro-actively liaise with local authorities both upper and lower tier to see what powers could be devolved, and why."