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City leaders issue ‘deliver devolution’ demand to Hague

City leaders issue ‘deliver devolution’ demand to Hague

🕔20.Nov 2014

The leaders of Britain’s biggest cities met with William Hague today to demand that the Government delivers its promise to speedily devolve powers and budgets to the regions.

The Core Cities cabinet, representing Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, told Mr Hague, who chairs the cabinet committee for devolved powers, that devolution to the UK’s cities must be delivered in the same time frame as Scottish devolution.

That would indicate comprehensive devolution proposals for England being published before next May’s General Election.

The council leaders quoted independent forecasts predicting that devolution for the eight English Core Cities alone could mean an additional £222 billion and 1.3 million jobs for the country by 2030 – equivalent to adding the entire economy of Denmark to the UK.

Meanwhile, it is understood that Birmingham and the Black Country councils have set a timeframe of April 2016 for a West Midlands combined authority to start work.

The new body will take charge of economic development, skills and transport, which would mean disbanding the recently established West Midlands Integrated Transport Authority.

The meeting with Mr Hague came shortly after the Core Cities cabinet met with Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. The mayor backed their calls for greater powers to UK cities across borders, avoiding the unnecessary extra bureaucratic layer of an English parliament.

Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham city council and Core Cities lead on transport, said: “The Core Cities are the UK’s engines of growth and prosperity – the argument to devolve powers to the regions is beyond doubt.

“Placing powers and budgets into the hands of those on the ground in the regions will lead to better informed decision-making and accountability, meaning the likes of Birmingham will have the best possible opportunity to maximise its potential for citizens and businesses. Much is being said about devolving further powers to Scotland.

“There is no reason the core cities should be treated any differently. Here in the West Midlands, Birmingham and the councils in the Black Country have announced plans for a combined authority. We are putting the building blocks in place and now need central government to support our ambitions.”

Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council and Chair of Core Cities UK said: “A programme of devolution for Scotland has been set out, but the national agenda for devolution is simply not radical enough. The devolution we need has to be at the level of the city and even the neighbourhood.

“Any legislation must make provision for the whole of the UK, and specifically for its cities. Although the timing should not restrict the promises to Scotland being delivered, we would like to see this within the same time frame for the whole of the UK.  That is why we are pleased the Government is taking notice as in an increasingly competitive global economy, the UK’s big cities are Britain’s best bet.”

Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, and Core Cities UK Cabinet Member for public service reform, added: “Today’s discussions are a sign that the argument for city devolution continues to gain ground among decision-makers in Westminster.

“We are a growing voice that the Government would be wrong to ignore. Our cities are essential growth hubs but, like big cities the world over, they are also home to large numbers of people reliant on public services.

“With greater freedoms we can reform public services, integrating them at the point of delivery, saving money, improving people’s lives and getting more people into training and employment.”

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