Localism and devolution

What would UCU like to see?

In the UK, education policy is devolved in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and there is already a significant divergence in policy between the home nations. There is now increasing pressure for further devolution both to the home nations and to English regions.

UCU is calling on local and national politicians to ensure that education providers are included in consultation on further devolution of skills and related policies (e.g. employment) to a local level. Local decision-making bodies with a responsibility for education and skills should include appropriate representation from education providers, and devolved administrations should be encouraged to partner and share good practice in order to minimise unnecessary duplication and fragmentation of the sector.

What is each party proposing?

Conservative Party

  • Continue devolution settlements for Scotland and Wales as per the Smith Commission and St David Agreement, and implement the Stormont House Agreement in Northern Ireland
  • Deliver more bespoke Growth Deals with local councils and back Local Enterprise Partnerships to promote jobs and growth
  • Legislate to deliver the Greater Manchester devolution deal, and devolve further powers over skills spending and planning to the Mayor of London

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(87 votes. Average rating: 2.64 out of 10)

Green Party

  • Support calls for a Constitutional Convention, allowing parts of England to come together and exercise greater powers, and consideration of further devolution to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales subject to referendums
  • Favour greater devolution to, and tax-raising powers for, local authorities
  • Allow local authorities to run local services as they wish, employing social enterprise and voluntary sector organisations to assist with delivery
  • Create an Assembly for Cornwall, with similar powers to the Welsh Assembly

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(107 votes. Average rating: 6.82 out of 10)

Labour Party

  • Create an English Devolution Act, transferring £30bn of funding to city and county regions, along with new powers over economic development, skills, employment, housing and business support
  • Establish local Public Accounts Committees, so that every pound spent by local bodies is accountable to local taxpayers
  • Implement the Smith Agreement in full and put Welsh devolution on the same statutory basis as Scottish devolution

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(96 votes. Average rating: 6.19 out of 10)

Liberal Democrats

  • Build on the success of City Deals and Growth Deals to devolve more power and resources to groups of local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships, with a focus on balancing local autonomy with fair equalisation between communities
  • Continue to make the case for powers held at Westminster and Holyrood to be transferred directly to local government where appropriate
  • Implement the Smith Commission proposals and deliver proper Home Rule for Wales

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(63 votes. Average rating: 3.79 out of 10)

Plaid Cymru

  • Full transfer of powers to the Welsh Government as outlined in the Commission on Devolution in Wales, including prisons, criminal justice, broadcasting and energy
  • Push for a written constitution for Wales guided by citizens

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(55 votes. Average rating: 6.55 out of 10)

Scottish National Party

  • Demand that the proposals of the Smith Commission are delivered quickly and in full
  • Prioritise devolution of powers over employment policy, including the minimum wage, welfare, business taxes, national insurance and equality policy
  • Work towards the prompt devolution of the Work Programme so that skills and employment policy can be better integrated

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(75 votes. Average rating: 5.87 out of 10)

UCU analysis

All of the parties are committed to further devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Both national parties set out their own ambitions for full devolution and integration of services. The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats also put forward their own proposals for devolving tax and spending powers to Scotland (in line with the Smith Commission proposals) and Wales. The Green Party’s proposals for devolution both within England and to the home nations are tied to a Constitutional Convention which would subject any constitutional change to a referendum.

In England, all four UK-wide parties include measures for greater local control. The Conservatives focus on continuing with bespoke deals and enshrining measures already announced for Manchester and London in law. The Liberal Democrat proposals echo this aim, but focus more closely on the role of local authorities in delivering local outcomes. The Green Party, too, clearly favours local authorities as the most appropriate local decision-making structure. Overall, there is a clear consensus that devolution in one form or another is a political priority.

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