25 Jun 2024

British manufacturers urge government for expanded devolution deals

Make UK manifesto

In a bid to bolster local economies and address regional disparities, Britain’s manufacturers are urging the next government to prioritize the widespread rollout of Devolution Deals across England. The call, spearheaded by Make UK, emphasises the need for a comprehensive approach to devolution, advocating for a unified Devolution Act that consolidates existing local authority and devolution legislation.

The proposal, outlined in Make UK’s latest report titled “For or Against? The Case for Further Devolution,” underscores the transformative impact of devolution deals on manufacturers. These deals have not only provided substantial funding but also fostered conducive environments for local businesses to thrive. However, manufacturers stress the necessity for longer-term devolution plans to ensure sustained growth and prosperity in underserved regions.

According to the report, nearly 30% of manufacturers advocate for devolving decision-making powers on skills to local authorities, aiming to align training initiatives with specific regional needs. Additionally, there’s a clamour for enhanced investment in local infrastructure to bolster business performance, with 21% of respondents endorsing longer-term devolution strategies.

While fiscal devolution currently occupies a lower priority, there’s growing interest among manufacturers in empowering localities to finance essential projects independently. One notable recommendation from the report is the adoption of US-style ‘bond referendums,’ allowing regions to raise funds for infrastructure ventures without solely relying on central government allocations.

These bond referendums, akin to those prevalent in the United States, enable localised decision-making on allocating resources for pressing regional priorities. Projects like expanding educational facilities or enhancing public transportation, such as Manchester’s tram network extension, could benefit significantly from this funding mechanism.

Faye Skelton, Head of Policy at Make UK, emphasised the necessity of extending devolution’s success to overlooked regions, advocating for a streamlined process underpinned by a robust Devolution Act. She stressed the importance of introducing bond referendums, empowering mayoral regions to finance vital infrastructure initiatives autonomously.

Despite the benefits of devolution, the report highlights a notable awareness gap among manufacturers, with 46% uncertain about their locality’s devolution status. This underscores the need for concerted efforts to educate stakeholders about devolution’s potential to drive local economic growth and prosperity.

As the nation gears up for the next phase of governance, the spotlight is on policymakers to heed manufacturers’ calls for expanded devolution, ensuring that no region is left behind in the quest for equitable development.

Company info: Make UK