Examination of Witness

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:56 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Dr Ellis:

That is a complex question, but time is short. The single biggest issue is with trust and public consent—whether the people of Derbyshire understand the benefits of the combined authority. I am tempted to say, at the moment, that they do not. People have talked in the past about double devolution, and I think that is still important. You have two problems going on; you have the fantastic opportunity that devolution presents to empower local authorities and collections of local authorities, but then you have an important issue about the citizen and trust within communities, and how they relate to that.

In thinking about the devolution agenda, it is important to show regard and care to things such as parish and town councils—that lower tier—and what powers they might get. Otherwise, all that happens is that you shift the trust problem down a notch. The opportunity is there when resources and powers are provided for places to begin to set a new course that tells a story about that place. That is desperately needed in this country.

My only fear is that we need coverage across most of England—we do need that—and the ad hoc nature of this is giving different powers to different areas. The status of the strategic plan in Liverpool, legally, is different to the one in Manchester, which is different again to the London plan. That might be fine, but it also creates levels of legal uncertainty. There is a tension between those things, but I would continually emphasise the point on community trust and what communities can do, as well as what local authorities can do.