Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Yes to ‘Devo-Manc’

The coalition has an especially dismal record in the north of England. The number of young people on the dole for more than a year is up 62 per cent across the north of England, compared to a national increase of 25 per cent. Wages for working people in the north have fallen by even more than the national average under this government. Only a quarter of the government’s planned infrastructure projects are in the north-east, north-west, Yorkshire and the Humber.

However, the ‘Devo-Manc’ settlement announced today, and supported by all the Labour leaders in Greater Manchester, should be a building block for Labour’s radical devolution agenda. We should not allow the Tories to claim the devolution card: we put in place the legislation that set up the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, it is Labour leaders in Manchester who have championed local powers, and Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have set out bold proposals, building on my report on regional growth published this summer. It is also Labour which began the creation of ‘metro mayors’ in London where it has been an outstanding success, particularly in improving transport. We should champion mayors for all city-regions where leaders want them.

Under our plan, £30bn of funding will be devolved, including budgets covering housing and transport infrastructure, business support, skills and employment. City and county regions that come together in combined authorities will be able to retain the additional business rates revenue generated by regional growth. Local government will be able to decide bus routes and set fares that are fair, ensuring that no one is taken for a ride on their journey to work.

This is a far bolder plan than George Osborne’s. In times where budgets are tight and people feel their ability to influence politics diminishing, it is vital that power and money flow out of Whitehall and are vested closer to the people.


Andrew Adonis‘ report ‘Mending the Fractured Economy’ was published in the summer


Photo: Stephen Douglas

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Andrew Adonis

is a former secretary of state for transport


  • This is fine in the metropolitan areas where the functional economic area is geographically bigger than “upper-tier” local government units; which is why metropolitan counties were invented in 1974. But in most of England, functional economic areas are often smaller than “upper tier” units and bear little relationship to their boundaries. So there needs to be some radical thinking about how we liberate the economies of those places too. We might start by thinking what “city” means in economic terms, and remembering that is not necessarily a function of size, and certainly has nothing to do with castles and cathedrals. Simply calling those areas outside the “mets” “County Regions” based on Ted Heath’s 1974 geography is a cop-out, economically illiterate, and may be the equivalent of the mediaeval practice of inscribing “Here be Dragons” on maps of areas of unkown territory. We can do better than that.

  • Correct, Combined Authorities only cover small areas of England. The problem with these initiatives it that there is no clear strategy or plan for the whole of England & where all this fits into thought through plan for total constitutional reform. English local governance is now a total dogs breakfast of different structures & geographies – no clear rationale to these reforms since 1974. Combined authorities for instance are simply a revival of the metropolitan counties abolished in 1986. No change until there is a clear plan in place for reform.

  • Just because the Combined Authority model works for Greater Manchester doesn’t mean it is wrong because it doesn’t also work for Lancashire. It’s right that the pace of reform starts where it can at least work best.

  • the voters in greater manchester have’nt had a vote for this? this is supposed to begin in 2017?
    how will the voters react in may 2015? the manchester voters asked if they wanted a mayor.they said no.they have signed up to the tories will that go down,right before not only a general election but their will be local elections too.

  • It would just be nice if we could just have an English Parliament through which the people of England could decide their own methods of fair and equal devolution across the nation of England. Not just a few crumbs tossed our way to keep us quiet or confused about the forthcoming Scottish Devo Max whilst at the same time they’re still sending MPs to vote on English business & taxes.
    Labour – we have your measure & you’re coming up well short as far as the nation of England is concerned.

  • Are Labour proposing devo max for all English cities and regions? If not then won’t the problems continue? Whitehall will continue to hold the purse strings.
    It is central government that needs reform. Labour is approaching matters the wrong way. We need to reform the UK Parliament before anything else is done.
    This reform should start with scrapping the House of Lords and converting the House of Commons into a UK Senate with a substantial reduction in membership.
    At the same time an English Parliament elected by PR should be set up in say York. This would break Whitehall’s stranglehold on power.

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