by Olivia Hanks
“Let local people decide!” urged George Osborne in his budget speech last summer, as he announced details of his plans for English devolution. What an excellent idea, as, on the face of it, almost everyone across the political spectrum agreed. Unfortunately, local people did not ask for devolution, had no say in deciding its form or content, were kept entirely in the dark about negotiations, and, in the case of East Anglia, are now to be ‘consulted’ on a deal of whose existence they are probably unaware and which, the Treasury has confirmed, there will be no opportunity to amend.
Report after report, from councils, public sector bodies and journalists, has enthused about the ‘golden opportunity’ to give local people a say in the decisions that affect them. Even those expressing serious reservations have praised the ‘principle’ of devolution — ignoring the glaring fact that when you examine the detail of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act, or of individual ‘deals’, this principle is conspicuous by its absence.