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Boris Johnson: Conservatives must ‘recover municipal tradition’

Boris Johnson: Conservatives must ‘recover municipal tradition’

🕔29.Apr 2014

In a wide ranging interview Total Politics magazine, Boris Johnson has spoken at length about his belief that radical devolution must be at the centre of the Conservative Party’s future.

He said: “cities have traditionally been the heartlands of Conservatism, the great municipal Joe Chamberlains and so on. There’s no reason why that tradition should not be recovered. That will be the future of the Tory party.”

“There are no Labour cities, there are no Tory cities, there are no Liberal Democrats cities. There are cities where you’ve got increasingly sophisticated and affluent electorates who want to hear how a sensible government is going to promote growth and enterprise, keep their taxes down, keep crime coming down, and keep building homes where they need them. Last and probably most fundamental, keep investing in all the things that make urban life work, particularly transport.”

Johnson also reiterated his previous call to devolve the major property tax revenue streams – council tax, stamp duty, land tax and business rates – to local government.

Appearing before a Parliamentary committee on fiscal devolution in March, Mr Johnson argued that giving local government control of these streams would end “stop-start finance settlements and instead [provide] a reliable stream of funding to enable investment, jobs and growth.”

Johnson attempted to align this devolution with traditional Conservative principles of financial restraint: “We should be doing a deal with the Treasury so we split the income and go ahead with devolution. Conservatives should be in favour of a strong, local sense of fiscal responsibility.”

“I think there’s a big prize for us Conservatives in having fiscal responsibility in the great cities, I think that’s how Conservatives will win in the big cities in England. We can be the party of fiscal responsibility and taxpayer value. And the way to do that is make sure that local governments are elected to purse policies that bear down on council tax and the cost of local government but deliver growth.”

“I think local politicians would have a strong incentive to cut taxation. I’ve been elected twice now on a manifesto of cuts in council tax and I’ve done it. It was one of the real reasons [I got re-elected], people underestimate the power of that message.”

Pushed on the question of Scottish devolution, Mr Johnson went on to state: “England has had nothing from devolution. The great English cities are motors of the UK economy, they hold the keys to the future success of the UK and it would be a stunning thing to galvanise those cities and get them onto really targeted policies

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