M-RCBG Associate Working Paper No. 216
WHY HASN’T UK REGIONAL POLICY WORKED?
The views of leading practitioners
UK domestic policy – especially in England - in recent years has focused on regional inequalities in economic outcomes and public service delivery, which are tied to a political ‘geography of discontent’ that emerged in the 2010s. These inequalities are nothing new; nor are public policy efforts to address them. We conducted interviews with ninety-three top level political and official policymakers across the UK (spanning six decades of experience). This paper summarises practitioners’ views on the lessons we can learn from past efforts to address to address regional divides. We find broad political consensus on a range of areas: that widening divides are not inevitable; that previous policy regimes have lacked sufficient ambition; that excessive past centralisation has driven policy instability. We find that the Mayoral Combined Authority model, coupled with sustainable local government funding, could form the basis for a cross-party consensus on regional growth. Our interviewees diverge on how future reforms ought to be prioritised, with open questions on: the division of powers across tiers of government; how much institutional pluralism there ought to be in devolved governments; how to devolve power (and whether the current ‘bottom-up’ approach ought to remain); and on the design of fair funding formulae and fiscal devolution.