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Insight Paper: Combined and Local Authorities: working together

Combined and Local Authorities: working together to support local cultural decision making 

In this Insight Paper, we share key takeaways from the forth in a series of Knowledge Exchange sessions hosted by Culture Commons as part of 'the future of local cultural decision making' - an open policy development programme that brings together a coalition of over 28 UK-wide partners to explore how 'devolution' and increased local decision making might impact on the creative, cultural and heritage ecosystem in different places in the UK. 

A diversity of people coming together to make their voice heard - they hold up speech bubbles  to represent their perspectives

As the devolution agenda in England continues to ‘extend and deepen’, we want to better understand if and to what extent local government structures are already working together to support the creative, cultural and heritage ecosystem both locally and regionally.

So, for our fourth Knowledge Exchange session, we brought together representatives from within the partnership - three local authorities and their respective combined authority representatives too. Each pairing are at very different stages of their devolution journey, enabling us to look at the working realities of multi-tier governance of culture in a live context.

Programme partners who were also speakers on the panel were:

  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority & Wigan Council

  • North East Combined Authority & Durham Council

  • Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority & Cambridge City Council

We were also joined by representatives from our programme partners at South Yorkshire Combined Authority and Sheffield City Council who contributed to the Q&A that followed.

This session provided us with a unique opportunity to have a frank discussion about the ‘in and outs’ of working together across the tiers of local government to support strategies, delivery and evaluation. 

We set out to enhance our collective understanding of our partner’s perspectives on:


  • Roles and responsibilities for their ‘tier of governance’ and how this compares in different areas.  

  • The benefits and challenges of working together in a combined authority area. 

  • The structures and tools that are supporting joined up working and partnerships in place between tiers of government. 

  • The possible future of local or central government policy interventions that could ameliorate/further support multi-tier governance. 

Heading observations from the sessions include:

  1. Local relationships are critical - local authorities are best placed to understand the individual nuances of local communities and the unique strengths of their creative, cultural and heritage ecosystems.

  2. Cooperation over competition - The convening power of combined authorities can support local authorities to deliver on their own, as well as wider regional, policy priorities.

  3. The 'Value Add' - There are some strategic responsibilities that combined authority level structures are well suited to, for example inward investment, tourism and high profile national advocacy.

  4. Policy Connectivity - The process of negotiating a 'devo deal' can provide an unparalleled opportunity to view place-based policy more ‘holistically’, introducing a decidedly regional dimension to the cultural policy landscape.

  5. Data Flows – More and better data associated with the creative, cultural and heritage sectors could aide strategic decision making and collaborations between local and combined authorities.

All the emergent findings are captured in full in this latest Insight Paper, which will be fed into the growing body of evidence informing the policy development phase later in the year.

Inline with our open approach to transparent policymaking processes, we’ll be publishing a whole series of Insight Papers. If you'd like to be kept up to date with how the programme is developing, please sign up to our newsletter on our home page or visit the programme hub here.

Please do share this paper with your colleagues and networks and get in touch with us at if you have any questions or comments. We'd be delighted to know your thoughts!


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