EEF: business needs a bigger say over devolution

Lauren Fedor
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The group is calling for a business-led inquiry (Source: Getty)

A leading industry group is calling on the government to give businesses more influence over the devolution of powers to local authorities.

In a new paper out today, the EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, argues that firms “must be given a greater role in plans for devolution in England if the process is to result in genuine localism and a boost to private sector growth, investment and job creation”.

Calling the current relationship between businesses and local authorities “weak”, the EEF wants the government to give Local Enterprise Partner­ships (LEPs) an “enhanced role” in the transfer of powers from the
national government to local authorities.

The group has also asked for an amendment to the government’s cities and local government bill, in order to require an independent, business-led inquiry into devolution plans.

EEF chief executive Terry Scuoler said devolution “must not be seen as an end in itself but a process aimed at tailoring local business environments to make them better places for business growth”.

“Ultimately, local decision makers and businesses will need a sustained dialogue on how they can make their local areas places in which businesses can prosper,” Scuoler added.

Scuoler is not the first business leader to demand that the government include firms in devolution plans.

When chancellor George Osborne said last week that he would give “power to the people” by handing local authorities control over £26bn in revenues from business rates, British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) director-general John Longworth said it “[felt] like a set of impositions rather than a grand partnership”.

“It is highly questionable for the chancellor to announce major changes to business rates without consulting broadly with the business communities that pay them,” Longworth added.

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