We welcome the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, re-affirming the Government’s commitment to devolution in last week’s Autumn Statement. However, it was very much a missed opportunity that digital did not feature at the heart of the Government’s devolution ambition.
Accompanying the Autumn Statement the Government published its Northern Powerhouse Strategy outlining the steps it will take to ensure its vision is made a reality. Key points relevant to the local Government tech sector include:
• Providing a further £556 million to northern Local Enterprise Partnerships through a third round of Growth Deals to invest in local infrastructure.
• Arrangements for the £400 million Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund have been confirmed which will invest in local smaller businesses.
• Mayoral combined authorities will be given powers to borrow for their new functions, allowing them to invest in economically productive infrastructure, subject to agreeing a borrowing cap with HM Treasury.
It was also announced that a Midlands Engine Strategy will also follow shortly and the Government will continue to work towards a second devolution deal with the West Midlands Combined Authority.
With devolution seeing more services being delivered locally the smarter use of tech in our regions and cities is critical to delivering services that are integrated and accessible for all citizens. As such that is why digital governance should be in place from the start, by building digital leadership into the foundations we ensure that that potential of doing things differently as a result of devolution is not lost. We will be looking to the Government to reconsider these areas in the next Budget.
We look forward to working with Government as it engages with the industry as it develops what more can be done to support the delivery of the Northern Powerhouse.