The Impact of Devolution on Local Government in London: An Expert's Perspective

Decentralization is the process of transferring powers and funds from the national to the local government. This is done to ensure that decisions are made closer to the people, communities, and local businesses they affect. Devolution, a form of decentralization, is the transfer of power from a central government to a subnational government. It usually occurs through conventional laws and not through a change in a country's constitution; thus, unitary systems of government that have powers transferred in this way are still considered unitary and not federal systems. In the late 20th century, groups in the federal and unitary systems increasingly sought to reduce the power of central governments by delegating power to local or regional governments.

This trend was also observed around the world, with two notable cases of decentralization occurring in France in the 1980s and in the United Kingdom in the late 1990s. Before the 1980s, France was one of the most centralized states in the world. The national government in Paris had to give its prior approval to all the important decisions taken by the regions, departments and communes. However, as the size and responsibilities of subnational governments grew, most mayors opposed this centralization of power, known as tutelage (“oversight”). To slightly reduce the scope of power exercised by the central government, the socialist government of Pres.

François Mitterrand (1981-1989) expanded the authority of subnational governments and eliminated tutelage. Decentralization is seen in many countries as a way to reduce regional, racial, ethnic, or religious divisions. Examples include Finland granting significant autonomy to its mostly Swedish-speaking population of the Åland Islands; Spain granting regional governments (in particular the Basque Country, Catalonia, Galicia and Andalusia) extensive powers; and Italy granting several regions “special autonomy”.The devolution of power from London to local authorities has been an ongoing process since its introduction in 1998. The Belfast Agreement of 1998 (also known as the Good Friday Agreement) gave Northern Ireland its own parliament, restoring political autonomy it had lost when direct government from London was imposed in the 1970s. The United Kingdom is very centralized, with London controlling only 7% of taxes collected in the city compared to 50% in New York. Directly elected municipal leaders are now present in many areas across England. In 1979, referendums were held that would have transferred power but were rejected by voters in Wales and Scotland.

Support for decentralization varied both in Scotland and Wales and affected their proposals; Scotland was offered a parliament that would have had capacity to pass laws and set some of its own tax rates while Wales was offered an assembly with no such powers. The government is still in favor of decentralizing mayors but has adopted a more flexible approach. The Local Government Association's guide looks at combined authorities' experiences with a particular focus on understanding lessons learned from developing return agreements for city councils. Decentralization has been an important part of modern governance for decades now. It has been used to reduce regional divisions, grant autonomy to minority populations, and empower local governments. In England, devolution has been an ongoing process since 1998 when it was introduced through the Belfast Agreement.

This has allowed local authorities more control over their own affairs while still maintaining a centralized government in London. Devolution has been beneficial for England as it has allowed for more localized decision-making while still maintaining a unified system of governance. It has also allowed for greater representation for minority populations and increased autonomy for local governments. As devolution continues to be implemented across England, it will be interesting to see how it affects local governments and how it will shape England's future.