In support of post punk politics

24 November 2015

We fully expect local devolution to be one of the big themes emanating from this week’s Spending Review. This policy is being firmly driven by a Chancellor who fully recognises the political expediency of tapping into the pioneering spirit of those at the very vanguard of the Devolution Agenda – the members of his “Northern Powerhouse”.

These are areas dominated by leaders who relish the opportunity to challenge the London-centric orthodoxy that has dominated our economic development for much of the past century. It’s no surprise that Manchester is at the forefront of the movement. This is a continuation of the attitude that shaped Manchester’s response to a very centralist Conservative Government of the 1980s and 1990s. This is a post punk politics – perfectly exemplified by the bands of that era – from Joy Division and New Order, to The Smiths, Happy Mondays, and the Stone Roses. This is about winning on your own terms – whilst firmly putting two fingers up at the Capital.

Since 2012, NIACE has been at the forefront of calls for Government to devolve more resource and responsibility to local areas. We have long called for a break away from the rigid Departmental model of Whitehall delivery – towards developing more joined up and informed solutions that better meet the specific needs of local people.

Developed in conjunction with Inclusion, our latest Policy Solution: Local People: Local Growth, builds on this, as we call on the UK Government to continue on the journey to greater devolution of employment, learning and skills – empowering more local areas to better harness of the talent of the people and communities they serve.

To achieve this, Local Areas need greater levers – and more resource. We therefore propose that the Adult Skills Budget for England, over £2.3bn, should be devolved to cities and local areas. This should be accompanied by giving Cities and local areas a central role in co-commissioning the successor to Work Programme – to better meet the needs of the long-term unemployed. We also call for devolution of responsibility for employment support for disabled people, uniting Work Choice and ESA support in Work Programme, where local areas can show how they would boost investment and deliver improved results.

On top of being given adequate funding, we believe that Cities and Local Areas should be given a formal role in overseeing learning, skills and employment services as a whole, underpinned by thee priorities:

  1. Effective information: Information on the local labour market is crucial for providers to plan. Individuals and employers also need this information, along with data on the performance of services to make effective and informed choices.
  2. Customers first: Individuals and employers often need support from a range of services, for example someone out of work might need basic skills training, health support and job search support. Local Areas are central in ensuring services work together; and
  3. Focus on outcomes: This includes considering the impact of learning, skills and employment services on sustained employment and progression, as well as wider impacts and potential savings for public services. For example, our Citizens’ Curriculum showed public health benefits and reduced emergency service call outs.

Getting this right is crucial if we are to tap into the energy of the post punk politics of Devolution and meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.