Owl has been reporting on the very public way the new unelected, unaccountable, unrepresentative Great South West, chaired by Steve Hindley (Chair MIDAS Group) and previous Chair of HoTSW, has been pushing its prospectus for your future to Ministers (including Sajid Javid).
Under the headline “Regions must be given new powers” today’s Western Morning News gives a more balanced view from a Northern Think-tank.
Owl wonders whether Exeter University, whose representatives are claimed to contribute to HotSW, has produced a regional view as comprehensive and reflective as this? Are we letting the North seize the initiative?
Sophie Morris, Western Morning News 21 Feb 2020:
The Government must deliver a devolution Parliament and open the door to more devolved power across England, including the South West, to level up the country, a think-tank has said.
A report by IPPR North suggests almost half of England’s job increases in the last decade were in London or the South East and calls on the Government to implement a four-year programme that “puts power and resources into towns, cities and regions” across the country.
Greater powers should be given to mayors and local leaders and areas that already have devolution such as Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and London should be permitted to take on more, the research suggests.
The Local Government Association also urged the Government to publish its promised devolution white paper “as soon as possible’.
England has the worst regional inequalities in the developed world with 47% of the increase in jobs in the last 10 years occurring in London and the South East, despite the area being home to just a third of England’s population, the research shows. This Parliament must be the “devolution Parliament” to reduce divides both between England’s regions and between the people living within them, IPPR North said.
The think-tank’s proposals to bridge the gaps include giving additional power to mayors and local leaders over issues such as schools commissioning, job centres and some taxes and setting up a “new geography of regional collaboration” with four regions in the North, the Midlands, South East and South West led by council leaders and mayors.
Holding a “convention on devolution in England” to “set the direction of travel and empower citizens” is also recommended.
The report suggests that Germany, which spends twice as much locally or regionally on supporting their economies as a percentage of GDP, is “better placed to support economic prosperity’.
Senior Research Fellow at IPPR North, Luke Raikes, said: “For too long, Westminster has hoarded power and held back prosperity in all of England’s regions, including London.
“Levelling up should mean opening the door for all of England to benefit from devolution, while also letting areas that have devolution take on more.
“This Parliament must be the Devolution Parliament. It is time to overturn the centralisation that’s let towns, cities and regions fall into decline. The Government must give places the power and resources they need, to adapt to the decades of change that lie ahead.”
Responding to the report, Sir Richard Leese, chair of the Local Government Association’s City Regions Board, said: “There is clear and significant evidence that the country gets better value for money when decisions over investment and how to run local services are taken closer to communities and businesses.
“As this report shows, with the right powers and funding, devolution can lay the foundations for a more inclusive arid prosperous economy across the whole of England. Democratically-elected councils are best placed to support the Government in seizing the opportunities for growth in the years ahead. They also make a huge difference to their communities by building desperately-needed new homes, creating jobs and providing care for older and disabled people.
“We urge the Government to publish its promised Devolution White Paper as soon as possible, and to reignite the process of handing councils the freedom and resources they need to get on and deliver for their communities:’
Last year, Local Government Association chairman James Jamieson said of Conservative plans for a Devolution White Paper: “Taking decisions over how to run local services closer to where people live is key to improving them and saving money.
“There is clear and significant evidence that outcomes improve and the country gets better value for money when councils have the freedoms and funding to make local decisions!’