IPPR North is the only major thinktank with a Northern base, which gives it a lot of credibility when talking about issues like a new northern renaissance.
Policies like DevoManc, elected mayors, business rates reform and other measures aim to devolve power and liberate local government from over-management by Whitehall.
However IPPR North believes there remains a lot to be done. In a recent report "The State of the North" Ed Cox and Luke Raikes point out that amongst other key issues like skills, innovation and employment we need to tackle our evident democratic deficit.
Across the North, and elsewhere in England citizens feel they have little influence on what happens in their city, town or village. The graphic taken from their report shows this fact most starkly. Its likely little has changed since 2012.
At a recent meeting at GMCVO looking at how to stimulate a more devolved leadership within Devomanc, where Ed Cox made the keynote presentation, Jez Hall of PB Partners made the case that Participatory Budgeting(PB) is a well-proven way to ensure that citizens are given a greater sense of influence, whilst improving innovation in the provision of public services in a time of austerity. In a recent blog on this website he advocated for PB to be considered as part of Devomanc.
And he believes PB can also help fund the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector. When local people have a say they overwhelmingly always back local delivery by locally based ‘not for profits’. Ed Cox agreed we had a lot to learn from experiences of PB in the UK and overseas.
At our recent PB Network conference a range of eminent speakers reiterated this point, and we heard how PB is flourishing in many different settings, and at scale, from health and social care, to policing and beyond. As Prof Graham Smith, of the Centre for the Study of Democracy said "there is something in the air".
Yet, as reported in the Local Government Chronicle on 28th October 2015, to date Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, and a noted champion of PB style engagement, is the first to break ranks and offer local people a say over the proposed Devolution deal in their region.