UK cities call for more devolved power and funding to catalyse net-zero progress

Cities across the UK are calling on the Government to devolve more funding and powers to local areas to enable the transition to net-zero emissions, claiming that many urban areas are facing long-term finance challenges.

UK cities call for more devolved power and funding to catalyse net-zero progress

Councils are struggling to implement their net-zero plans

Key Cities – the national network representing 27 urban centres across the UK – has called on the Government to introduce new legislative frameworks that give local authorities and cities more powers to implement and introduce low-carbon innovation.

The cities, which all have net-zero targets in place, serve a population of 6.2 million people and contribute £150bn to the UK economy. However, a Key Cities report, published today (11 May) notes that the role that local authorities can play in delivering net-zero needs to be better articulated.

The report calls on the Government to provide more, long-term, devolved funding with net zero powers to local areas, covering services such as the installation of EV charging infrastructure and retrofit. A monitoring framework for reporting and accounting should also be introduced.

Cllr John Merry, Chair of Key Cities and Deputy Mayor of Salford City Council, said: “Levelling Up, Emissions Down shows that local authorities must be at the centre of efforts to address the climate emergency, which can only be achieved if we are given more powers, clarity, capacity and funding.

“The Government’s own Net Zero Review highlighted that significant action is required if we are to meet national and local net zero targets, but to do this devolution needs to go further and deeper. As we look to reach net zero and level up communities across the country, we urge those in Westminster to empower local authorities so they can better serve their people and the planet.”

The report also calls on the Government to train and develop staff working across local authorities, building on the Green Jobs Taskforce to deliver two million full-time equivalent roles across all parts of the economy by 2030.

A final recommendation is for the creation of a new investment ecosystem for local authorities. A Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) should be required to align their plans with local development plans, the report notes.

Last year, it was revealed that most local authorities have not started delivering their net-zero transition plans, with funding constraints being the most common barrier to progress.

A survey of decision-makers at 50 local authorities in the UK found that just one-quarter of the council representatives classed their employer as being properly into the ‘delivery’ phase of their net-zero strategy.

The BBC reported last summer that UK councils are collectively facing shortfalls of some £3bn in their budgets for 2023-4. The impact this is having on the net-zero transition has previously been researched by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, which is recommending that the UK Government produces a long-term funding plan for local authority climate action.

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