Perspectives on Devo-South

1. The bids so far and mapping out our challenges

Our most recent research report for Business South looked at the challenges and opportunities in central southern England – incorporating some great maps from OS – and analysed the bids so far as well as the government’s own proposals. This assessment was compared to the views of key business leaders in the region who we interviewed about their priorities for devolution.

See more here.

2. The citizens’ voice

Over October and November we were involved in a Democracy Matters project, holding a citizens’ assembly in the Solent area of Hampshire. Local citizens and councillors deliberated on devolution options for Hampshire and Isle of Wight.

  • Citizens at this ground-breaking initiative strongly endorsed the idea that any new devolved body should cover the Hampshire and the Isle of Wight area (rather than the SE or Solent)
  • Health and social care integration should be the most important priority for the body, followed by public transport, business support and housing investment
  • Participants were evenly split on whether they support the devolution proposal currently being negotiated with government
  • Citizens want far greater public involvement in Hampshire devolution deal being proposed, and pledge to stay involved in the process, in bid to ‘democratise devolution

See here for an overview.

3. Lessons from Manchester

We were privileged to host Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, at an event supported by PwC in Winchester. Sir Richard led a discussion on the Greater Manchester Combined Authority deal, and how they got there.

We’ve outlined five key lessons from the Devo-Manc experience here.

Devo-South: a report on devolution and business

What are the challenges facing southern England, how can devolution empower local leadership to tackle them, and what do business leaders make of the opportunities offered by the government’s decentralisation agenda?

Download the full report here

BUSINESS is backing the idea of devolution in the South and wants to have a say in what it could mean for the region, according to a major new report commissioned by Business South.

Business leaders across the south have taken part in the study conducted by the Southern Policy Centre – the think tank for southern England – and the findings have been released at the same time as crucial discussions this week between Hampshire and Isle of Wight with the Government.

The report:

  • backs the case for devolution to the south
  • urges the government to concede a fuller programme of fiscal devolution
  • argues that as an area of business rate surplus, the combined authorities should be able to take on more services in order to be freed from the need to contribute to other areas

Sally Thompson, CEO of Business South, said: “This is the first time the voice of business has been heard on the subject of devolution in the south.

“We welcome the findings  of the report and look forward to seeing a shared economic vision for the region being  developed by the proposed combined authorities and LEPS with business.”

The report highlights that many businesses do not feel well informed about devolution,  and have not been consulted. Many also feel that the capacity of current local authorities needs to be improved to take advantage of new powers.

And it underlines the desire from business for simple and speedy decision-making from new combined authorities.

John Denham, Chair of the Southern Policy Centre, said: “It’s clear the south’s local authorities, LEPs and other organisations have worked hard, against a demanding timetable to put their proposals to government.  Our analysis backs their ambition. We highlight some weaknesses in their plans – these are probably inevitable given the haste but they will need to be tackled in the months and years ahead. One of the top priorities must be to consult with business to ensure the simple, speedy, decision-making that local businesses would like to see.”

The report acknowledges how quickly authorities and partners have had to move but urges potential combined authorities to consult more quickly and deeply with business, and to ensure that the new combined authorities do provide the clear, simple and accountable leadership that is required.

More on devolution in southern England

Citizens Assembly: opening up devolution in the south

Solent citizens debate plans for Hampshire devolution, in UK’s first ‘Citizens’ Assembly’

But residents want devolution process to be opened up to the public

The Southern Policy Centre helped to organise the first assembly of ordinary residents in southern England to discuss devolution in their area.

The assembly pilot was concurrent with a partner assembly in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

The results:

  • Citizens at this ground-breaking initiative strongly endorsed the idea that any new devolved body should cover the Hampshire and the Isle of Wight area, with integration of health and social care seen as the top priority
  • Participants were evenly split on whether they support the devolution proposal currently being negotiated with government
  • Citizens want far greater public involvement in Hampshire devolution deal being proposed, and pledge to stay involved in the process, in bid to ‘democratise devolution’

Over two weekends of discussion and voting, the nearly 30 participants – drawn from a broadly representative sample from Southampton, Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and other parts of the Solent area in response to an invitation by polling company YouGov – reached their conclusions through a deep process of engagement with the details of different potential devolution arrangements. The Assembly was chaired by the BBC’s Peter Henley.

‘Assembly South’ was only the second such event in the world to include both citizens and politicians as participants in the process, after the Republic of Ireland. Five local councillors participated alongside the citizens for the four days.

The participants were given unique access to national and local experts to aid them in reaching their own conclusions on how Hampshire and the Isle of Wight should be governed. The project has been closely followed by local councils across the region.

Last weekend saw local politicians and other experts giving evidence to the Assembly, including Cllr Roy Perry, leader of Hampshire County Council. The project is being backed by Alan Whitehead, MP for Southampton Test, who attended the Assembly on Sunday and called it ‘really important and significant’.

The first weekend in October saw key local figures address the Assembly, including Councillor Stephen Godfrey, Leader of Winchester City Council, Steven Lugg, Chief Executive of the Hampshire Association of Local Councils, and Mike Smith, Director of Cities for Cofely UK and former Director of Finance for Southampton City Council.

Participants voted that if there were to be a new devolved body:

  • It should cover the Hampshire and the Isle of Wight area, instead of other options like the South East or the Solent.
  • Health and social care integration should be the most important priority for the body, followed by public transport, business support and housing investment

When asked to vote on the devolution deal currently on the table in negotiations with the government:

  • There was a dead heat, with participants evenly split on whether they would vote for or against the proposals.

The project, entitled Democracy Matters, has been organised by a group of leading universities, in conjunction with the Electoral Reform Society and the Southern Policy Centre, and has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Hampshire and the Isle of Wight is one of two pilot areas taking part in the experiment, alongside Assembly North in Sheffield. Citizens in the parallel Assembly for the South Yorkshire region gathered on the weekend of the 7th November to reach their conclusions. The 31 participants similarly called for stronger powers for South Yorkshire, as well as a Yorkshire-wide elected Assembly and more democratic engagement in the process.

In related news, the Southern Policy Centre has this week published a report on how business leaders in the south view devolution and how the bids match up to the challenges for our region.

For more information visit

Southern Powerhouse: lessons to learn from Manchester

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, joined the Southern Policy Centre and the Winchester Business School to discuss Manchester’s experience of devolution so far (‘Devo-Manc’).

The day was kindly supported by PwC.

Here are five important lessons that those building devolution deals in southern England can take from the Greater Manchester experience so far:

1. It takes time

Devolution is a process built on talking and planning between equal partners. It requires a unified political voice asking for powers based on a credible prospectus, which in turn requires Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Independent leaders to have strong relationships between each other.

The situation in southern England is accelerated. That ground work hasn’t been done in the same way as Manchester where they’ve been working on the process for many years. So leaders will be thinking about what work they need to do after the initial deal with government is struck, and how trusting relationships can be maintained across their region.

2. Connecting economic and social policy is key

No major policy challenges fit neatly into one policy box. Sir Richard focused on the issue of worklessness, which is one of the key factors behind the productivity gap between Manchester and other parts of England.

Much of it is caused by health problems, and devolution will actually enable that challenge to be dealt with across sectors. Not just by the NHS, not just by a local council, not just by the DWP. You can use strategic leadership, drawing on the knowledge of professionals and politicians in all these organisations, and you can pool funding/resources to tackle problems at root.

3. Devolution works best bottom up

The Manchester experience has been ‘bottom up’ in two key ways. Business voices have called, loud and clear, for devolution around skills policy. Amplifying these voices has been integral to Manchester’s case. And the whole of the Devo-Manc deal was drafted collaboratively between elected leaders. The Treasury didn’t impose the Northern Powerhouse, it was designed by Manchester’s architects.

But it hasn’t been perfect. One regret from Manchester was that they haven’t involved ordinary citizens enough in the design. The most effective devolution bids will carry forward the priorities and aspirations of whole communities.

4. It’s cross-party or no party

This has applied both locally and nationally in Manchester. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority includes Conservative-led Trafford and Liberal Democrat-led Stockport.

But the story that isn’t often told is how important continuity between the Labour and then the Coalition government was in 2010. The last couple of years of the Labour government in particular showed real progress in creating a Manchester ‘City Region’, and the coalition’s choice – made, apparently, on the lobbying of the Conservative and Lib Dem leaders in Manchester – to carry that work forward rather than scrap it and build their own scheme stopped devolution progress from being set back by years.

Devolution bids in the south – from Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to the Three Counties prospectus between Surrey, East Sussex, and West Sussex – are all built on cross-party coalitions, but that has to hold up in sustained negotiations and partnership working throughout times of electoral change.

5. Equality has to be protected

So much of this is built on trust between local partners. Protections for political minorities as well as unequal areas (ie district councils compared to unitary authorities) have to be built in from the start, so that the political leadership in these areas don’t feel like they’re being set up to be taken over by their bigger partners.

Further notes from Manchester:

  1. Business rates: a great opportunity, especially for southern authorities, but inequalities exist and councils will need to lobby the government to devolve business rates at a combined authority (rather than council) level so that a local system of redistribution is an option.
  2. Health: health organisations in Manchester and beyond fear being taken over, an anxiety that can destabilise the whole process if efforts aren’t made from the start to build in joint working and decision making.
  3. Education: Greater Manchester has only made tiny progress on education, this is an area where government policy doesn’t align with local authorities who want more oversight of schools.
  4. Confidence: local government is the most confident it has been for a long time. They won’t just be turned away at the door anymore, and the devolution genie won’t be allowed to go back into the bottle.


Supported by PwC.

Sir Richard Leese on the Devo-Manc experience

A Southern Powerhouse?

That’s the issue that Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council and key player in the ‘Devo Manc’ deal, will be addressing for us at the University of Winchester Business School.

Sir Richard will be well placed to give an insight into the negotiation of the devolution agreement, Manchester’s role in the ‘northern powerhouse’ and how the combined authorities intend to use their new powers.

John Denham, Chair of the SPC, will chair the event.

Wednesday 21 October

10.30am for a 11am start, ending at 12.30 with a buffet lunch.

Winchester Business School, West Downs Campus, SO22 5HT


Good work in the open data community

A guest post from local open data expert Mark Braggins originally published on The post provides an excellent overview of some of the innovative open data work underway in our region.

In my previous post I argued that a combination of ‘chance’ and open data can lead to good stuff happening. I supplied a few examples, and also mentioned ‘engineering serendipity’, where ‘chance’ is given a bit of a boost.

In this post, I’m going to rattle through a few updates, and introduce a couple of new examples.

Updates from last time


At BlueLightCamp in May 2014, Chris Cooper – co-founder of Know Now Information – came up with the idea to use open data to try and predict when and where flooding might occur in future.

Know Now have been working with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) at Hartree, and have created Flood Event Model, which has proven – with 85% accuracy – that open data from a wide variety of sources can be used to predict the precise location and time there will be an impact on human lives.

This means that emergency services can be forewarned, before an event takes place, giving them time to take action e.g. closing affected stretches of road, putting in place diversions, warning householders, and positioning resources where they’ll be most effective.

Making sense of the data – one of the visualisations from Flood Event Model, based on open data for Hampshire

Flood Event Model is still ‘just’ a model, however, and the next steps will include workshops in Hampshire to look at the practicalities of integrating it as a service into an operational environment. I’m pleased to be working with Know Now on that.

Footnote: Just spotted this article in the Financial Times, written by Clive Cookson, and also this press release by STFC.

Crowdsourcing landscape change

Back in my Hampshire Hub days, I helped instigate an initiative called Crowdsourcing Landscape Change (CLC). It’s a partnership between Remote Sensing Application Consultants (RSAC), the University of Portsmouth, and Hampshire County Council, with support from InnovateUK.

Basically, CLC uses two sets of aerial photographs – from 2005 and 2013 – and asks people to ‘spot the difference’ between two snapshots of the same location. Once you’ve registered, you can pick a square, or have one selected for you. There are some simple choices to make about what’s changed, and any differences you identify are captured as data (which will subsequently be released back into the wild as open data). For those who like a bit of healthy competition, there’s a leaderboard, and there’s also a forum where you can discuss what you find.

I’m really excited about CLC for various reasons:

●it can help inform us about the changing landscape

●it’s exploring how crowdsourcing can help in a public services context

●people are creating new data,which is being shared back with them again as open data

There’s more information on the Landscape Watch Hampshire web site, which is now ‘live’. Please give it a go – even if you aren’t in Hampshire – every observation gets added to the pot and adds value.


Another example from Hampshire is the work that the Geodata team at the University of Southampton has been doing with Aerial photography. This is another of those ‘unanticipated benefits’ that I was banging on about about earlier – basically councils in Hampshire released the images and data with an open licence, and Geodata have done some amazing stuff with it. Geodata created the Hampshire Data Portal, which lets you select and download aerial data in a variety of formats, and also lets you explore in 3D. It’s not finished yet, but I couldn’t resist mentioning it here.

Bus, pub, food, bus

There’s lots more about University of Southampton and open data in Joyce Lewis’ recent article in The Guardian: Opening doors to open data at the University of Southampton.

One of those which I mentioned previously is the map created by Chris Gutteridge and Dr Ash Smith. Amongst many other things, it includes food hygiene and transport open data, which helps students and staff find out which pubs and restaurants are on well-served bus routes.

Ventnor Minecraft

Well, Chris has been at it again, this time using open data to create a model of Ventnor (Isle of Wight) in Minecraft. Simon Perry from On the Wight covers it nicely in his article: Minecraft Ventnor: If you know a Minecraft fan, this will blow their minds, and Chris’ site is:

Actually, it was Chris and Ash’s work which first connected me with Sian Thomas from theFood Standards Agency (publishers of Food Hygiene Certificate open data), and led to Sian joining the organising team for Open Data Camp.

Speaking of which…

Open Data Camp

Open Data Camp – the first unconference in the UK devoted entirely to open data, took place in February 2015. By most accounts, it went rather well, and lots was written about it.

Over 150 people made it to Winchester over the weekend, despite the rail replacement bus service in place both North and South of Winchester!

We originally envisaged there’d be a hack as well as the unconference, but people ‘voted with their feet’, and it turned out to be predominantly unconference as there were so many interesting sessions.

Under pressure

That’s not to say that no development at all took place at the weekend: Nick Allott of Nquiringminds (one of the sponsors) was hard at work creating GP Pressure Map, which uses open data to identify which GP surgeries will be most under pressure by 2020.

It attracted lots of interest, and Nick was later interviewed about it for BBC South Today.

Overall, Open Data Camp went so well that everyone just assumed there would be another one. Whilst Winchester was a great venue, we all agreed that the next one would be “up North”, which brings us on to our very own Northern Power…Camp:

Open Data Camp 2

We couldn’t wait a whole year until the next one, so Open Data Camp 2 will be 10-11th October 2015, at The Shed, in Manchester.

Happily, the ODC organisers are dispersed across the UK, and Jamie Whyte is well-placed to lead the next event. Jamie runs Trafford Innovation and Intelligence Lab, and is well-connected with the open data and innovation community in-and-around Greater Manchester.

All of the original team are of course still involved, and this time we’re also being joined by Julian Tait of Open Data Manchester, and Vimla Appadoo of SpacePortX, who bring their own knowledge and local expertise.

At the time of writing, there are a few tickets left, but you’ll need to be quick as they’re going fast.

I’m particularly interested in any stories involving open data for a new venture (which will be the subject of my next post).

The Southern Policy Centre specialises in open data both as a research tool and as a policy area. See here for more about our work in the area, and see here for our work as ODI Hampshire.

Arnie Graf Tour

Arnie Graf – lecture and community organising tour – October 2015

At a time when membership, participation and public confidence in traditional party politics are at a low ebb, the Southern Policy Centre has a programme of work to encourage innovative forms of public participation.

To date this has involved support for deliberative polling and a pilot constitutional convention. Arnie Graf’s tour has been organised by the SPC as part of this programme.

Arnie Graf is a prominent US advocate of community organising, the movement that gave Barak Obama early training and which has influenced, amongst others, the UK Citizens movement that first put the Living Wage on the political map in Britain.

The tour begins with ‘Reconnecting politics with people‘, an evening with Arnie Graf and Danny Kruger, moderated by Isabel Hardman (assistant editor of The Spectator). The event is being organised in collaboration with the Winchester Centre for English Identity and Politics, and the Centre for Theology and Religion in Public Life.

Date: Thursday 22 October

Time: 6.30 – 8.00 pm

Location: Stripe Auditorium, King Alfred Campus, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road SO22 4NR

Admission £5.00, including wine and refreshments beforehand.

Booking essential: book your place now.

Based in Chicago, Arnie Graf has more than 50 years’ experience of community organising. A disciple of Saul Alinksy, Graf mentored a young Barack Obama while both were involved in church-based community action. In 2011 Ed Miliband appointed him to his team of advisers, with a special brief to conduct a root-and-branch review of the Labour Party and reconnect it with voters.

Danny Kruger is Chief Executive of the criminal justice charity Only Connect which helps prisoners, former criminals and young people at risk of reoffending. A former special adviser to David Cameron, Kruger was a leading advocate of the Big Society, ‘compassionate Conservatism’ and the need for the party to embrace ‘social justice’. He is a former chief leader writer at the Daily Telegraph.

Flier with full event details

Other events on the Arnie Graf tour: 

Attlee Memorial Lecture University of Oxford Friday 23rd October
Southampton community workshop Southampton City Council Saturday 24th October
Interfaith workshop London Monday 26th October
Lecture at the

University of Southampton


University of Southampton


Monday 26th October

Citizens decide: grants and commissioning budgets in Southampton

Southampton City Council has established a People’s Panel, made up of residents who are interested in taking part in consultations and other opportunities to express their views on council services, health services and living in the city.

On Saturday 4th July 2015 the Southern Policy Centre ran a deliberative polling session with some members of the People’s Panel to pilot this different way of engaging people in exploring specific issues.

Southampton City Council, like most local authorities, faces major challenges in deciding how to spend its money wisely in a time of budget constraints. Decisions about the balance of prevention, universal services and priorities for the city’s future are all contentious. There are no easy answers.

The polling session, brought together policy experts with local citizens to discuss four key proposals that epitomise these difficult choices.

Below is a summary of the proposals discussed and the outcomes of the audience deliberation, but you can read the full report here including data on audience attitude and an explanation of the deliberative process.

Read the full report