- Available in: PDF
- Published: May 11, 2017
The British trade union movement has a long history of supporting devolution. The campaigns for devolution in Scotland, Wales and London were actively backed by unions. Although unions were perhaps less inspired by Labour’s push in the noughties for elected regional assemblies in England or initially for city mayors, they have consistently argued for handing more powers back to local communities.
However, union involvement in the emergence of combined authorities has been piecemeal at best. The ‘devolution revolution’ has largely happened without them. The devo deals were for the most part exclusive to council leaders and the business community. However, we are now entering a new, and hopefully more open phase, and one which should allow local partners, like unions, access and influence. Austerity, and now Brexit, are dark clouds hanging over the devo agenda, but as this report demonstrates, the soon to be elected metro mayors will represent something different in England. A distinct form of governance which could present unions with new opportunities.
In this report, we have documented how we got to where we are, described the rather messy process around devo deals and placed the spotlight on the main issues surrounding devo work. We have also looked ahead and flagged up some of the future risks and rewards. The evidence and insights are not meant to be definitive. Rather, they are offered as a route map for unions and others seeking to navigate their way around metro mayors and combined authorities. To that effect, we hope the report, as both a resource and critical guide, will help unions extend and strengthen their relationships with elected mayors and combined authorities. It’s clear that such an outcome is a win-win for both unions and employers.