The buzz word on the lips of local authorities, associated organisations, politicians and the media alike is one word – Devolution.
Whilst this will be new to England, it is of course nothing new to the UK; Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have all had varying devolved powers for over 10 years. Taking Labour’s experiment further, the Conservative government today is granting those regions additional fiscal responsibilities but is now actively encouraging others in England to follow suit.
As someone who has worked across the different regions, it has only just dawned on me how far ahead Scotland and Wales are in comparison to England. The combined authorities in place who have applied for devolution deals, or initiatives like the Northern Powerhouse have a long way to go if they are to catch-up and match the collaboration that is evident in Scotland and Wales.
In the words of one Civil Servant ‘we’ve been playing at government for the last 10 years and only now are we really beginning to drive hard at what we want to achieve’.
The UK government is clearly hoping the success of these regions can be replicated elsewhere as it seeks to address and rebalance the UK’s economy. The strong collective and tight-knit communities have helped transform the likes of Cardiff and Glasgow from where they were a decade ago. The joined up thinking is creating thriving cities and allowing the surrounding areas to attract new money and new investors.
The responsibility handed down at a local level has meant decisions are being made at a far quicker pace then you would typically see in England. For businesses like risual who deliver work into Public Sector, this provides confidence to us as a business and significantly helps to create new employment opportunities.
Thanks to devolved powers, Welsh Government are leveraging procurement to create new employment opportunities and encourage local authorities etc. to ‘look local’ when purchasing services. It is my expectation that we will see more of this type of procurement practice taking place over the coming years. Westminster is no-longer running the show, it is very much in the hands of local people and is offering local decision makers to take on a far pro-active role to ensure local money is spent wisely that will help create the jobs and positively impact on a region, just as it has done in Cardiff and Glasgow.
In line with this, risual have aligned themselves and are pro-actively putting back into the local economies where we are doing business. For example, when our next risual Academy goes live in April at Cardiff and Vale College we hope to generate further business in the South Wales region that will enable IT apprentices to go through the Academy and then through to employment both with us and other IT companies.
It is clear devolution is here to stay, it has the will of the politicians and the enthusiasm of locals. What is clear to me is lessons must be learned from the likes of Scottish and Welsh Government to ensure England can replicate their togetherness. Hopefully further devolution will be a game changer for the UK.