.@NeilDotObrien opens up the @ukonward Level Up event. Recognises that local governance has been something policymakers have been grappling with for many decades. And is something government are actively thinking about at the moment.
.@SimonClarkeMP is up next, reflecting on his time as a Minister working on the Devolution White Paper. Says that @BorisJohnson made the the point, when he was appointed, that #devo is central to the levelling up agenda.
He emphasises the importance of metro mayors. But also talks about an 'incomplete revolution' in devolution. There's still more to be done.
Calls for the extension of the metro mayoral model elsewhere. And about new unitary authorities as an important precursor to further combined authorities.
Recognises the challenging politics of metro mayors - that some mayors will use their platform to challenge the government. But calls on the Conservative party to be brave in supporting further #devo.
Simon Clarke now talks about greater accountability for Mayors, and allowing 'powers to move both ways'. Also mentions opening up Mayors to parliamentary scrutiny - through select committees.
Next up, we have @jogideon. She says she has a slightly different take on this to @SimonClarkeMP - coming from a small Unitary with no Combined Authority.
Jo emphasises that the covid-19 pandemic has radically altered people's expectations of government. We've seen agility and urgency - through vaccine programme and packages of support.
@jogideon "Now is time to demonstrate our commitment to community power"
She argues that we can't use the same commissioning approaches we have used in the past. Recognises that #localgov have been stretched to breaking point during the pandemic, and now face new bid-writing challenges.
Calls for a 'Levelling Up Board' at local level and more powers for partnerships between third sector organisations to act as accountable bodies for Levelling Up Funds.
Emphasises importance of Community Development Finance Institutions and the challenges around too tight a focus on value for money in procurement, which misses the chance to harness social value.
Final thought from @jogideon: Levelling Up will require a paradigm shift - a new, less prescriptive governance framework.
Prof. Philip McCann is up next. He's pleased that there is greater political recognition of the 'decoupling' that has happened over recent decades in the UK. That London and the South East is essentially working on a different plane to elsewhere in the country.
On the scale of the problem: the UK is more regionally unequal than post-Reunification Germany.
He argues that #Brexit will make it harder to solve this problem.
And argues that the city region model is a good step in the right direction, but won't solve these challenges on its own.
The heterogeneity of the UK makes it particularly challenging, in Prof McCann's view. Huge productivity variations across the UK, as big as some of the disparity across the whole Eurozone.
Limited 'degrees of separation' between the local level and national government is really important. It's harder in large countries. Most of these countries solve this by being federal.
In the UK "we have a vacuum in the middle", argues Prof. McCann. Close enough to the local, but big enough to be meaningful. The @OECD argues that the optimum scale is between 2m and 5m people.
is up next: "We need radical devolution, that gets right down to the neighbourhood level"
We can't leave places perpetually behind - too often our most deprived neighbourhoods don't feel the benefit of regional governance.
Recent research by @ProBonoEcon demonstrates the importance of community assets and infrastructure to life satisfaction - and people genuinely seeing improvement to their lives.
There's a danger that #levellingup is 'done to' people
@BritishAcademy_ study recognises importance of #socialinfrastructure in building resilience as we look to the Covid recovery
Devo White Paper is a real opportunity to 'reward' communities for teh role they have played during the pandemic
This has to come with money. #UKSPF offers a clear opportunity to do this. 25% should be devolved directly to neighbourhoods. @localitynews @PlunkettFoundat @CooperativesUK locality.org.uk/policy-campaig…
@vidhyaalakeson finishes: We need to be brave enough to move away from Whitehall controlled funds. That's the best way we can support 'left behind' communities and level up.
We're now taking questions from the panel. @SimonClarkeMP is up first. He recognises other panellists' contributions, and the importance of devolution beyond metro mayors.
He restates his support for unitary government. But also says he strongly supports town and parish councils - this hyper-local level form of government is really important.
He recognises the challenges faced by some places in his constituency without town / parish councils. Though also notes there is a variation in quality at the town / parish council level.
@jogideon up next: "there isn't a one-size fits all model". Argues we shouldn't be trying to design the localism piece in a top-down way. Localism is about having a model which fits each local community.
We need to empower communities to design their own governance system. Local government will have a role to play in doing this, but they can't pick up all the slack.
Prof. McCann cites a flaw in the current system. He says that @hmtreasury doesn't know what to do with localism. The centre needs to learn from the local, but too often this doesn't happen.
He recognises that one of the key arguments for #Brexit was the subsidiarity argument - Take Back Control should also apply within the UK.
Next Prof. McCann references the work of @HilaryCottam and the role of hyper-local systems for the provision of important social services such as care and employment / skills.
He cites data that shows our civic engagement lags behind many other areas of Europe.
@vidhyaalakeson is up next. Wants us to avoid thinking in binaries. "We need a set of criteria that local accountable bodies need to fulfil" - Neighbourhood Forums, Town /Parish Councils, established community anchors. It would depend on the place.
Next, she challenges the panel on the assertion that 'govt is serious about localism' - suggests a mismatch between rhetoric and reality. Cites the raft recently-announced of Whitehall controlled funds as an example of this.
.@SimonClarkeMP - National devolution is the elephant in the room. Says he is vary wary of further national devolution, as it provides an 'ongoing ratchet' towards independence. Risks 'tearing apart the country he loves'.
Argues that it has been the transfer of powers from one political centre to another. He says that we should have metro mayors in the devolved nations.
Next @SimonClarkeMP that devo and levelling up is primarily economic, but also broader than that - it should address social problems as well as get more money to places that have historically lost out.
@vidhyaalakeson argues that social infrastructure and social capital are important foundations for economic growth. That the two are more intertwined than we have appreciated previously.
Vidhya thinks there is a role for #localgov. Councils should see themselves as enablers of community activity. But also recognises they have been starved of resource for some time. This needs to be addressed for them to fully play this role as enabler.
Prof McCann agrees that economic and social are absolutely intertwined. And the evidence shows this. Good governance can be driven by lots of local funding. But it works well where there is a blank slate. We are starting from a point of huge inequality.
Final word from @jogideon - "we can't do this as rapidly as the shovel ready projects govt is asking for". We need to do this at the pace of community capacity building.

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