Our aim was to explore the recent ‘devolution moment’ and consider whether and how devolution can herald a better economic, social and democratic future.

With the General Election result likely to prompt further powers and responsibilities to devolved nations, cities and to local government, this is a ‘devolution moment’. Our aim was to explore this ‘moment’ and consider whether and how devolution can herald a better economic, social and democratic future?

After years of centralization, we must make devolution work. But hopes and promises are not outcomes, especially in Britain where previous major policy changes have ended in disappointment And devolution is too narrowly framed if it becomes a way of boosting economic growth so that questions of social and democratic renewal are secondary. Can devolution, more broadly, be a means to diverse ends including a ‘rebalanced’ economy, fewer inequalities, more public goods and services, and a revitalized democracy.

Under the aegis of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Manchester, this day of discussion was jointly organised by a leading think-do tank the Centre for Local Economic Strategies and by academic researchers in the Centre for Research on Socio- Cultural Change. Their aim was to break down the silos and sponsor a new conversation between academic researchers, local government, business and civil society groups.

The organisers drew on their networks to recruit a range of speakers and participants who through workshops, discussion and presentations interacted and addressed a series of questions about the devolution we have and what we need to do to make devolution work for all:

  • Reflecting on the general election, what are the future trajectories of devolved nations, city regions and other districts?
  • Can devolution address our multiple and worsening inequalities in economy and society and build inclusion and cohesion, creating more inclusive economies?
  • What does devolution mean for the welfare state and does devolution offer better public goods and services?
  • Can devolved decision making engage citizens and reduce the democratic deficit in our polity? and/or empower new regional elites?
  • What happens to the UK central state, its tax base and the increasingly challenged regional redistribution it presides over?
  • What new frames of governance and government do we need to promote learning processes of local experiment which break with narrow definitions of public reform?
  • What lessons can we learn from Europe, where devolution has long been the norm not the exception?


A programme for this event can be downloaded