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English Core Cities set Government 100-day deadline to approve radical devolution plan

English Core Cities set Government 100-day deadline to approve radical devolution plan

🕔13.May 2015

The leaders of Britain’s biggest councils will appeal to the new Conservative Government tomorrow to push forward as quickly as possible with a programme of devolution.

The Core Cities cabinet, representing Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, are to demand a “radical modernisation of the UK’s centralised state allowing the UK to succeed at every level from the global to the neighbourhood”.

Meeting in London, the city leaders will launch a Devolution Declaration setting out the case for a transfer of budgets and powers from Whitehall to the regions.

In a letter to new Communities Secretary Greg Clark, the Core Cities UK Cabinet says:

Our offer is to work with you to shape a new modern state with Parliament, to share the responsibility of running the country by placing the right functions at the right levels to rebalance, reform and renew Britain.

Rebalance and grow the economy to create more jobs and eliminate the deficit. Reform public services to improve outcomes and reduce costs through better local coordination of funding and services, focusing on people and place.  Renew democracy giving people a major stake in their future.

In their General Election manifesto the Conservatives promised to push ahead with English devolution and build on growth deals of the type awarded to Greater Manchester giving councils in a combined authority control of economic development, transport, housing and health.

But Chancellor George Osborne has made it clear that ‘devo-max’ is only likely to be handed out to regions willing to elect metro mayors.

It remains unclear whether a proposed Greater Birmingham combined authority will include Solihull and Coventry councils as well as Birmingham and the Black Country. Failure to bring Solihull on board, in particular, could result in the Government taking the view that the combined authority does not properly represent the Greater Birmingham economic footprint.

The Black Country councils have made it clear that they will not support an elected metro mayor for the West Midlands.

The Centre for Cities think tank has suggested that Birmingham lacks the “robust city region governance” needed to convince the Government of the case for devolution.

Andrew Carter, acting chief executive at Centre for Cities, believes there are four tiers of city regions in the queue for devolved powers.

London and Greater Manchester are in the first tier. Mr Carter said:

There is now clear blue water between these two cities and the rest, with one caveat – the Greater Manchester Deal still needs to be nailed down in legislation in the next government’s first Queen’s Speech.”

The second tier cities are Leeds and Sheffield both of which were able to strike Devo Deals with the coalition through their respective combined authorities, albeit much weaker ones than that of Manchester. I’d also include Cambridge in this tier because of its recent deal on business rates growth retention and its earlier earnback-style infrastructure city deal.

Centre for Cities places Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow in tier three.

Both Liverpool and Newcastle have a combined authority with their neighbouring authorities, but haven’t been able to extract any more powers from Government since their original City Deals. Glasgow agreed a significant City Deal just before the Scottish Independence Referendum, but at the moment lacks the robust governance structures to make decisions at the city-region level.

And bringing up the rear in tier four are Birmingham, Bristol and all other big cities.

Mr Carter notes:

Both Bristol and Birmingham, despite good progress, still lack the robust city region governance institutions and investment frameworks and as a result haven’t been able to strike any further devo deals, beyond their initial City Deal, with Government

Core Cities has joined forces with the Respublica think tank to put a devolution timetable to the Government:

  • In the first 100 days of this next parliament a Devolution Agency to be established to oversee the changes.
  • Devolved funds for transport, housing and employment to be handed to city regions within a year.
  • By 2016, a devolution pilot in one city region where income and corporation tax variation would be devolved and implemented.
  • By 2020, pilot extended to all city regions.

Chamberlain Files will be reporting live from the Core Cities devolution declaration tomorrow.

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