Labour’s policies on English devolution are taking shape.
Last week, Hilary Benn, Leeds MP and Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government – talked to Alexandra Jones – of ‘Think Cities’.
He stressed that Cities like Leeds will be central to economic growth in the future – and the need to devolve ever more power to them.
You can hear the interview in full on this podcast.
Our brief summary below.
We need even stronger cities if we are to make the most of our economic potential. We need cities which will play to their strengths.
Hilary Benn is especially excited by the fact that already cities are coming together – the Leeds City Region is just one example. Councils and businesses locally are recognising that there is a need for planning for their own areas – e.g. for transport.
Hilar Benn recognises and has heard Local Authorities’ plea for greater powers
‘I absolutely get that message’ . He recognises that the tide is moving to devolution. England is an extremely centralised country – and that must change.
He stressed, however, that that will sometimes mean making the best use of powers Local Authorities already have.
But it will require more.
Attitudes here are changing. We need to allow cities to develop and grow. The questions here are about powers AND culture.
A national cultural shift is needed.
That will mean a new attitude to accountability as well as to who does what.
Asked about next year’s General election and Labour’s policies – he stressed
– first – you can’t run verything from centre
– second – we are in a new era of less money, we’ll belooking to get the best results from the money available
– third – he highlighted the crisis of confidence in politics – the fact that people are alienated; that they have doubts whether politics can deal with big problems, like the aftermath of the economic crash. Parents are unsure whether children will be as well off as they are.
One big answer to all three challenges – is greater devolution.
What’s striking is just how innovative Local Authorities are being.
Local Authorities are confident about what they can do. Their request to Government – help us make it happen.
Labours plans already include greater devolution of Transport spending;
Rachel Reeves has already announced that the Work programme should be devolved more. There should be more co-commissioing with Local Authorities, because they have shown that they can do a very good job at getting people back to work.
They should also have more control again over Planning – e.g. of the High street.
Labour’s full plans are still in formation. We’re awaiting the results of the Adonis review and of the Local Government Innovation taskforce.
That last is a real sign of where Labour is going.
The task force was set up by Ed Miliband. And it starts FROM Local Authorities – asking THEM what they can do, how they can be helped.
With or without a ‘Yes’ vote from the Scots, English devolution is set to be one of the biggest questions of our day- central to so much else.
‘Devolution is unfinished business’
Labour will finish it – and its approach is from the bottom up, as it should be on this issue.
Britain – and England – really Will be Better under Labour.
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