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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > March 2017 > Is the government’s city devolution agenda really a cover for cuts?

Is the government’s city devolution agenda really a cover for cuts?

Margaret Hodge

YES I have always believed that devolving power and budgets leads to better decisions on priorities, enhanced value for the spending of public money, higher quality in the services provided and, most importantly, strengthened democracy as people secure greater control over the decisions that affect their lives and their communities. I want more devolution.

However the government’s actions fail to match what is required for a real city devolution agenda. New duties—not many new powers—are being transferred to city mayors alongside continuing vicious cuts in central government support for services. Transferring duties with inadequate funding to local bodies is not devolution.

In the five years to 2015/16 central government funding for local authorities fell by 37 per cent; further substantial cuts are coming. With new responsibilities for integrating health and social care, administering housing capital investment and running further education, the elected mayors, not the government, will be blamed for failures to deliver. Risk and blame is shifted while the real accountability for government failures is disguised.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s March issue: Sam Tanenhaus, George Magnus and Dahlia Lithwick examine the state of America after Donald Trump’s first couple of weeks. Tanenhaus looks at the situation faced by the American press, Magnus looks at the state of global trade and Lithwick inspects the diminishing right to choice women face over abortion. Anne Perkins explores the rise of Theresa May through the political ranks and David Edmonds looks at how empathy affects our decision making. Also in this issue: Jay Elwes on Trump’s relationship with America’s intelligence agencies, Anita Charlesworth on the state of the NHS and Nick Cohen on what is done in the name of “the people” by politicians