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
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