Recent changes: funding and regional devolution

The overall structure and funding levels and sources of local government in the UK is set by central government, and both have changed dramatically since the 2010 General Election, with important implications for would-be collaborators in the academic community.

Central government funding has been significantly cut for most local councils – up to 40% over the last five years, with further cuts planned. This level of cuts has forced councils to fundamentally reconsider not only how they deliver their services, but what services they can deliver, and different councils have adopted different solutions.

The government has also announced measures to ensure councils take on more responsibility and power, and function with less central oversight. These measures include the proposed regional devolution plans, which will see selected combined metropolitan authorities gain increased powers over planning, transport, housing, healthcare, and schools, and the recently-announced plan to allow councils to collect and keep local business rates, rather than return them to central government for redistribution. You can find details of the North East Combined Authority's devolution agreement here, and details of the Greater Manchester devolution agreement here.

What these changes mean is that local bodies are increasingly looking to work in partnership with other organisations to develop policy and deliver services.

There is a clear role for academics to play in this changed local government landscape: not only can you help plug growing evidence and research needs in local policy, but as local bodies gain more power, they will have increased ability to choose their own policy directions.