A report out today endorsed by cross-party coalition of politicians including Andy Burnham, George Osborne, Tracy Brabin, Ben Houchen and Andy Street calls on the Government to change creeping centralisation and to step back from the micromanagement of England’s cities and counties.
The report by the Onward Think Tank sets out the problems with England’s over-centralised system and makes 25 recommendations for change, including calling on the Treasury to hand mayors control of 1p in every £1 raised from income tax in their areas. This is equivalent to £6 billion a year – or around £250 million for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands and around £200 million for West Yorkshire.
In return, mayors would have increased scrutiny and accountability, and greater responsibility for running local services including local transport, digital and energy infrastructure.
This would include control over railways fares and timetables as well as apprenticeships and support for adult education.
The authors say The UK is one of the most centralised countries in the developed world and, despite the promises and rhetoric of successive Governments, this situation is getting worse rather than better.
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said:
“This report sets out a clear and compelling argument for the ‘next phase’ of Mayoral devolution. It makes a clear case that more empowered Mayors and Combined Authorities can do more to tackle some of the major challenges facing the country. There are some important ideas here: from giving us the levers we need in areas like the rail system, adult skills, and housing, to fixing the patchwork way we’re funded. And it sets out a firm but fair trade: greater freedom should come with greater accountability.
As both we and the West Midlands begin our ‘Trailblazer Devolution Negotiations’ with Government, I know we’ll be drawing heavily on the recommendations set out here.”
Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said:
“Devolving further powers to mayors over skills, transport and climate will be necessary if we are to truly level up and close regional inequality gaps. Having to constantly bid into centrally controlled funding pots for relatively small amounts of money does not allow the long-term investment that our region needs. Onward’s proposal for a Mayoral Settlement, providing a multi-year single budget, is something I fully support.”