‘Top-down approaches don’t work’ – LGA calls for digital devolution

Written by Sam Trendall on 16 November 2017 in News

Local authority membership body urges government to devolve the programme of work set out in the Industrial Strategy

The Local Government Association urged the government to devolve more powers to local authorities allowing them to manage digital infrastructure in their area.

The calls come as part of a wider campaign for the government to move away from the top-down approach of its Industrial Strategy and give more autonomy to councils to invest locally in skills and infrastructure. 

The government is currently considering two options in its quest to ensure every home and business in the UK has access to superfast broadband. One is a universal service obligation, a proposed piece of legislation that would effectively make affordable superfast connectivity a civil right. The second option is an offer from BT to invest up to £600m in rolling out the necessary infrastructure to provide every UK citizen with a superfast internet connection.

But the LGA claimed that Whitehall would be better off leaving it to local authorities to make their own arrangements with network operators.

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The organisation said: “Councils are best placed to understand the digital needs of their local areas – including the projected 60,000 premises which will remain unaddressed by the Universal Service Obligation – and pilot new ways of working with mobile network operators and communities to help deploy the infrastructure needed to facilitate excellent mobile coverage across the country.”

The local authority membership body also called for “a simplified, ambitious and longer-term approach to funding for local transport”, and “a devolved and funded skills and employment system”.

Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said: “It is clear top-down approaches don’t work. Giving local government more freedoms would improve productivity and also help to boost place-based inclusive growth. We need to upskill young people and adults now to make them relevant for the jobs of today and tomorrow. We have a plan in place and are ready and willing to help the Government deliver a skills system that makes sense for local people and places.”

He added: “The Industrial Strategy should use this place-based approach to drive up skills levels and productivity across the country to ensure that all parts of the country are able to create the conditions for inclusive growth.”


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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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