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Support authorities that wish to combine

We will support those authorities that wish to combine to serve their communities better.

Our Verdict

A combined authority is a governing body set up by two or more neighbouring councils to coordinate their activities. Combined authorities usually take on responsibility for local government policy areas such as transport, housing and social care. There are currently 10 combined authorities, all in England, eight of which are led by metro mayors, elected using the supplementary vote system.

Theresa May’s government only oversaw the establishment of one combined authority, the North of Tyne Combined Authority.  A plan for one in the Solent area was rejected in October 2018. The plan for a combined authority in Dorset has also not been carried out, even though the government approved a merger which created two new unitary authorities in April 2019. The expectation was that these councils would form a combined authority, but this has not happened yet.

However, the May government did resolve the dispute involving the Sheffield City Region. The 2015 devolution deal which created this combined authority was rejected in September 2017 by the leaders of Barnsley and Doncaster councils in favour of trying to establish a “One Yorkshire” arrangement with 16 councils. The government rejected this proposal in February 2019, but later agreed that the Sheffield City Region deal will continue until 2022, after which any council wishing to leave and form a different arrangement may do so.

Boris Johnson’s government have hinted they are in favour of a Yorkshire-wide devolution arrangement. In a speech in September 2019, Johnson said his government would “maximise the power of the north with more mayors”, and “I welcome the establishment of a Yorkshire Committee…facilitating greater collaboration on a Yorkshire-wide basis.”

This committee has been formed by members of the Yorkshire Leaders Board, and is tasked with working to establish “interim sub-regional devolution arrangements”, as well as “an overarching devolution model for Yorkshire”. It has also been reported that the West Yorkshire Combined Authority may be given new powers and a metro mayor.

A white paper on English devolution was announced by the Chancellor Sajid Javid in September 2019, and mentioned in the Queen’s Speech in October 2019.

Since the 2017 general election only one new combined authority has been established, and plans for others have not been implemented. There has been some support but not unequivocal support for  “authorities that wish to combine”, so we are classifying this as ‘in progress’. Follow this policy for updates.

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