‘NO STRINGS ATTACHED’: HOW UNCONDITIONAL DEVOLUTION WOULD REDISTRIBUTE POWER AND RESOURCES IN THE UK SKILLS SECTOR

Post-16 skills development is an example of a policy area where more comprehensive devolution could be transformative. This would enable local economies to become more resilient in times of rapid and significant change, particularly given the place-based nature of sector make-up and growth ambitions.

However, we at NLGN believe that the potential of skills devolution to help develop resilient economies is restricted by national government’s slow and piecemeal ‘deal-making’ approach. As thoughts turn to how people and places can be supported to withstand the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis, it does not make sense that so many of the tools needed to shape local skills policy are still held at the national level.

Guided by the principle of subsidiarity, which holds that decisions are best taken as close to citizens as possible, this project will look at where power lies in the UK’s skills system with a fresh pair of eyes and deliver an assessment of how power and resources would be distributed across the UK’s multiple levels of government if devolution were unconditional (i.e. if powers and resources were devolved to lower levels of government in full, without conditions or ‘strings’ attached by the government devolving them). The project will then make recommendations setting out which levels of government should have responsibility for which skills-related powers and budgets, regardless of whether they have the capacity to take on these responsibilities right now (though there will be reflections on capacity and risk in the final research report).

The project is funded and supported by the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL).

For more information, please send an e-mail to Charlotte Morgan (cmorgan@nlgn.org.uk).