Devolution: National v Local does it really matter?

What a strange world we live in when it comes to the public sector devolution debate.

As it comes to the top of the policy agenda again, the major issue, as always, centres on who actually gets to make the decisions and control the funding?

Very little has changed over many years and this despite any number of acronyms and initiatives which come and go: ARIs, NDCs, SRBs, RDAs and the latest incarnation LEPs to name only five.

Whichever way the cake is cut though, the source of most of the major funding streams that flow into these intermediary bodies and then onwards to businesses and projects  are either from, somewhat ironically, European funding sources or controlled in one way or another through the usual National government departments: HMTreasury overview with Cabinet Office, DCLG, BIS and various new funding streams such as the Regional Growth Fund and Local Growth Fund (two more three-letter abbreviations to add to the pot).

Whatever has happened in the past seems to have been forgotten - successes or failures - although I am aware of a number of constructive independent evaluations, from which lessons could have been learned, that have been, shall we say, gently placed to one side.

What appears from my experience to be emerging despite all the noise about devolution is the continuation of the practice of many years: you can have some money from the national pot provided that we are happy with what you propose and it fits our purpose - a victory for the centre. If you do not do what we want, you will not get the funding -sounds like a game from the school yard... Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see a different pattern of behaviour emerging? We could learn from experience and have the courage to accept that an idea didn’t work, or do more of the same if it did!