Difference in attitude towards English and Welsh devolution in Levelling Up plans says think tank
A think tank has said that the new Levelling Up white paper betrays a difference in attitude towards devolution for England on the one hand and devolution in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on the other.
The Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) said that while devolution within England was seen as a way to stimulate economic growth, in contrast, devolution outside England was seen as a “red line” with the UK Government instead choosing to bypass those governments and parliaments.
The UK Government’s “denigration” of existing devolved institutions meant that the Levelling Up agenda could “fail to deliver for the entire UK” they said.
The Welsh Government have previously criticised the UK Government for bypassing them and handing money straight to local councils when handing out pots of money.
The IWA said: “In this White Paper, increased regional devolution in England is viewed as a way to inspire growth in a direction that fits residents’ aspirations for their communities.
“However, this attitude is not shared in relation to Wales and Scotland, where any further devolution at a national level has become a red line for the UK Government, instead bypassing these institutions and the vital contribution they could make to levelling up.
“This risks creating a more adversarial, rather than a more cooperative relationship. It risks investment in local communities ending up being poorly delivered due to the UK Government’s denigration of devolved democratic institutions. It risks the Levelling Up agenda failing to deliver for the whole of the UK.”
The Institute of Welsh Affairs also said that they were concerned that the money being made available to Wales by the UK Government was significantly lower than they would have received as part of the EU.
The think tank made two recommendations based on the Levelling Up white paper, the first being match funding previously delivered through European structural funding, and increase with inflation into the future.
The second was to set up a joint body between the UK and Welsh governments, local authorities, business and civil society to administer the Levelling Up Fund and Shared Prosperity Fund allocations to Wales.
Auriol Miller, Director of the IWA, said: “The pandemic and Brexit have caused the biggest upset in our social and economic fabric in generations.”
“We must seize this opportunity to rebuild from a unique moment in our history through harnessing the strength of devolution in Wales and we call on the UK Government to respect the promises made to replace European funding to ensure Wales receives fair investment.”
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove unveiled the government’s Levelling Up White Paper in the House of Commons yesterday.
It included a promise for domestic public investment in Research & Development to increase by at least 40% across Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, as well as parts of England such as the north of the country.
£50 million from the Safer Streets Fund will also be invested every year to give Police and Crime Commissioners, local authorities, and also certain civil society organisations in Wales and England the resources they need to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour.
“The United Kingdom is an unparalleled success story. We have one of the world’s biggest and most dynamic economies,” Michael Gove said.
“Ours is the world’s most spoken language. We have produced more Nobel Prize winners than any country other than America.
“But not everyone shares equally in the UK’s success. For decades, too many communities have been overlooked and undervalued. As some areas have flourished, others have been left in a cycle of decline. The UK has been like a jet firing on only one engine.
“Levelling Up and this White Paper is about ending this historic injustice and calling time on the postcode lottery.
“This will not be an easy task, and it won’t happen overnight, but our 12 new national levelling up missions will drive real change in towns and cities across the UK, so that where you live will no longer determine how far you can go.”