Proposals to redesign London’s £93bn public services through wide ranging devolution from central government have been agreed by borough leaders and the city’s mayor.
The ambitious devolution bid, obtained by HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle, sets out plans it is claimed will help the capital “outpace” New York and add £6.4bn to the capital’s economy by 2030. The bid will mark the starting point for negotiations with government on a devolution deal which it is hoped can be agreed ahead of the spending review in the autumn.
Its demands include boroughs taking control of health and social care budgets, as well as reform to housing and unemployment rules, budgets and services.
In the part of the plan dedicated to health, papers said leaders wanted to build on the work of the London Health Commission to “realise faster reform of services”. However, neither NHS England nor local commissioners have signed up to the proposals.
Under the proposals health and social care budgets would be pooled at borough level, plans for transformation of services and the use of NHS assets would be developed at a “sub-regional” level, while a “pan-London… cash support regime” would take over the provision of support to NHS providers with deficits from the Department of Health.
The papers also suggested the mayor should have greater public health powers, including letting him or her “raise the minimum age for buying tobacco”.
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Tied into health is a proposal to devolve responsibility and resources for the delivery of employment support for residents with complex needs to multi-borough groupings, in conjunction with clinical commissioning groups.
There are also proposals to cut £2.5bn from criminal justice budgets across London by integrating emergency services’ back offices and redesigning court services, probation and community rehabilitation programmes.
The bid also seeks control of funding from UK Trade and Investment and other government agencies to develop tailored support for local businesses.
LGC understands the proposals were agreed by mayor Boris Johnson, the leaders of London’s 32 boroughs and the City of London at a private meeting yesterday.
Agenda papers for the meeting, seen by LGC, said the “solution” to reducing national debt and increasing growth in the capital, was to “redesign the £93bn of investment in public services in London”.
“The core proposition is that London, like other cities, should have significant responsibilities devolved from the national level, allowing us to stimulate growth, boost housing delivery and deliver more effective outcomes within a tight public spending settlement,” the papers said.
The papers said that while leaders were “supportive… in principle” they believed any money raised from the sale of housing association or council homes “must be retained in London for reinvestment”. As a result, they are seeking the reform of current right to buy rules so funds raised from the sale of council homes can be retained in the capital.
A proposal for councils to have “freedoms over planning fees for major projects” is also included.
The papers expressed a desire for the devolution negotiations with the government to be “concluded by mid September”.
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