Britain’s metro mayors should be given greater powers over housing, schools and jobs to truly transform our cities and drive the economy, a new report from former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine has concluded.
Lord Heseltine’s report Empowering English Cities, commissioned by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and backed by the UK’s six Metro Mayors, including Andy Burnham,sets out a series of proposals to boost city regions and devolve further funding and powers from Government.
His latest report was compiled following interviews with mayors of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West of England and West Midlands.
It concludes that while there was great progress early on, this has now stalled in recent years with national political attention focussed on Brexit.
He sets out the case for greater devolution arguing: “We must start with our great cities, the engines of our growth, the rocks upon which our prosperity stands.”
Lord Heseltine’s radical proposals talk about embedding the role of cites in Government while moving funding, powers and staff away from Whitehall to the regions.
He argues cities are better placed to answer the challenges of new technology, low skills and poor infrastructure.
He said: “There is no single solution to tackling these economic challenges. If our great city-regions are once again to become the engines of economic growth for our country, it will require long term and enduring partnership work between the private sector and all levels of government, ensuring that city-regions have a good supply of skilled labour; are well connected; have land available for homes and employment; have rich, innovation ecosystems, often built around a university; and have an attractive cultural offer for their communities.”
Crucially, the report concludes combined authorities should take on responsibility for affordable housing, school performance and employment training.
Lord Heseltine argues that city-regions like Greater Manchester also need greater money raising powers – such as taking the locally raised slice of the road tax to fund transport infrastructure.