"Coming out of a pandemic, further devolution and regional expertise would be a sensible policy to advocate for."
The call for further devolution and constitutional reform has been gaining momentum in recent years, not only in terms of giving more powers to the already established devolved assemblies; but in creating stronger regional representation and devolving more powers to combined authorities within England.
It is interesting to trace the history of the call for devolution. We can, surprisingly perhaps, find numerous occasions where devolution has been considered or advocated for. English devolution was proposed in 1912 by Winston Churchill who had proposed that the English government should be split amongst regional parliaments in order to create a federal system of government. Another such moment has been the Redcliffe-Maud Report in 1969, which proposed eight devolved assemblies in England.
In more modern times, new positions have been created such as metro mayors, who are directly elected and lead a combined authority; demonstrating a shift towards a culture of devolving power, even if it is incremental and does not hold the same weight or have the same resources as the devolved assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This comes almost a decade after the abolishment of the Regional Development Agencies between 2008 and 2010 which were set up to foster economic growth.
Past policies have been so minutely incremental in handing out power, whether that be to councils or to city mayors, that whilst all metro mayors are given new powers in regards to skills, housing and transport; their powers are limited in other areas. Often they are confined to the pre-existing devolution deals that have been struck up by each authority. This creates an imbalance of power and of influence. For example, Greater Manchester has agreed devolution of more powers over criminal justice and health and social care that six out of the nine authorities do not have.