Autumn Budget 2017: A Step in the Right Direction for Digital Devolution

Last week’s Budget reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to devolution by announcing a number of policies empowering cities to grow their economies. Firstly, a £1.7 billion new transforming cities fund through the National Productivity Infrastructure Fund (NPIF) to improve connectivity and support jobs across England’s great city regions. The Transforming Cities Fund, newly launched, main focus will be funding local transport links. It will address weaknesses in city transport systems in order to raise productivity and spread prosperity.

More Devolution Deals

Further devolution deals included North of Tyne, covering Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, as well as a second round of devolution deal for the West Midlands. Tees Valley and Liverpool City Region will also look to build on their first deal.

The Role of New Metro Mayor Can’t Be Underestimated

The city regions with metro mayors were the clear winners from the Budget when you see where the investment, particularly for the new Transforming Cities Fund, has been allocated. Furthermore, the success of the second West Midlands devolution deal illustrates the potential and influence a new metro mayor can leverage.

The West Midlands devolution deal also paves the way for future deals to commit digital capability at the heart. This devolution agreement commits Government and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to a number of steps which support the delivery of a local industrial strategy in areas including housing, skills and employment, transport, air quality, energy and digital and through investment in key growth sectors such as advanced manufacturing, digital and new technologies. As highlighted in techUK’s Digital Devolution: A Guide for Mayors, the WMCA recognises the potential of data to improve public service delivery using data and analytics securely and effectively for integrated local decision-making, planning and delivery. This is a very welcome move and techUK’s 2017 Manifesto ‘Inventing the Future’ called for digital to be a core part of all future devolution deals. Digital devolution enables a strong digital infrastructure and culture across a place that will ultimately deliver improved service outcomes for all and drive continuous economic growth.

The Autumn Budget clearly shows the Government’s commitment to devolution. Devolution presents one of the biggest opportunities to do things differently, breaking down the traditional barriers to service delivery to drive improved outcomes for all. The Budget shows the potential that can be leveraged by having a metro mayor. However, the mayors, with their direct and convening powers, must use their new and unique position to accelerate the pace of transformation, working closely with public sector, the community and industry to deliver better outcomes for all citizens by creating truly joined-up services and places where citizens want to live and thrive. That is why techUK published earlier this year, A Guide for Mayors, which included a series of questions for the new mayor to ask their team in their first 100 days to help them engender change, build capacity across the eco-system of the place. Other city region areas and the Government should take note of the second WMCA deal and place digital at the heart of their plans and future devolution deals.

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