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“but the delays caused could be significant, slowing progress across the country and providing real political challenges to local leaders trying to secure a deal.”
Perhaps such delays are the desired goal of this Parliamentary tactic – offering time to reflect on the wisdom of current government policy?
Have “local leaders trying to secure deal[s]” undertaken any programs aimed at;
a) Informing their respective electorates about the terms/benefits/implications of such deals?
b) Seeking their consent to conclude them?
The answer in both cases of course, is a big fat NO!
I concur with the now general consensus supporting the principle of dispersing power downwards, away from a highly centralised Westminster based administration but the manner in which such strategies are being pursued across England is deeply flawed, displaying ZERO democratic legitimacy and very little coherence in terms of delivering effective, robust and accountable tiers of governance closer to the communities they purportedly serve?
Scotland with 5.3million inhabitants boasts a fully fledged Parliament, replete with primary legislative capacity, which will in time accrue greatly enhanced competency over significant policy portfolios, including commensurate revenue raising powers.
Yorkshire on the other hand, with 5.2million inhabitants appears to have NO prospect whatsoever of being offered anything remotely equivalent, instead having to settle for (possibly) some City Deals based around entities that leave huge swathes of the County out in the cold, exhibit no transfer of revenue raising capacities, rendering freshly imposed Executive Mayors and weak institutional architectures exposed to the worst consequences of Westminster driven ideology and associated policy initiatives – a constitutional reform outcome repeated across England’s provinces.
What happens if/when a toxic cocktail of burgeoning social demands (ageing population?), significantly diminished capital resources (in the form of hand me down block grants controlled by a central administration committed to profoundly reducing the overall size of state activity) and incompetent political leadership combines to cause implosion of public services at the local level – who will bear the brunt of such potentially catastrophic failure?
The answer of course is the usual suspects populating the most vulnerable elements of society – in Osborne’s master plan a Westminster administration will simply point the finger of guilt at elected Mayors and/or attendant local govt. cabinet minders, effectively washing their hands of responsibility – a win/win all round for political leaders at both national and local level but a massive loss of confidence for localised communities already deeply sceptical/ambivalent about the motivations driving elected bodies.
Is there an alternative strategy available – yes, there is and it’s very simple to understand, revolving around genuine engagement with citizen focused ideas and initiatives. Again Scotland has demonstrated the way forward, offering us a proven template in the form of the Scottish Constitutional Convention – a process that began small but gradually expanded to encompass many strands of Civil Society;
• Business & Enterprise Community Leaders
• Trades Unions
• Voluntary Sector
• Community Representative Groups
• Faith Groups
• Youth Representation
• Think Tanks
• Special Interest Campaigns
• Political Parties
as legitimate proxies for a wider base of engaged citizens
It is this principled approach underpinning the Northern Citizens Convention, a broad alliance of individuals and groups committed to widening the debate about devolution, with particular emphasis on a marginalised and peripheral Northern England – http://www.northerncitizensconvention.org.uk
Perhaps the present government administration is cautious about encouraging this form of “democratic” public engagement because they don’t relish the prospect of any core message emerging from its deliberations?
Your insistence that there must be elected mayors does not fit with your stated “Our main goal is to understand how and why economic growth and change takes place in Britain’s cities, and to produce research that helps cities improve their performance”.
Where is the legitimacy of a system to be imposed on a city region without the consent of the people there? Most of the referenda on elected mayors in 2012 rejected the concept, and while these were single local authority referenda, there is no evidence that a city-region wide opinion would be any different.
You call it devolution but this is not about power to the localities, it is power in the hands of the Chancellor, both in term of Governance structure and also in finance terms because there is no money raising powers included in the proposals.
There is more and more scepticism around Devo Manc as being a way of localities taking the blame for huge cuts in funding instead of the blame being where it lies, with the Government. And also opens up presidential – style elections which are much more susceptible to media influence – is this a plan of Osborne’s to try to get a Conservative foothold in the northern cities that is nigh impossible under current arrangements? Is this the real rationale behind your Centre? I see no evidence that elected mayors produce better governance. Recent reports from London suggest the opposite.
And sliding Tony LLoyd in as interim mayor in Manchester isn’t a wonderful advert for democracy and accountability, is it?
So I say, great that those amendments were carried and yes to a proper locally and publicly agreed, and hence legitimate, scheme of devolution. Less interference from Westminster. Grant local authorities more powers including fiscal powers, and incentives for them to band together to work out their own destinies.
Quick point of clarification – the Parliament Act is a red herring here. It only applies to bills that start in the Commons, so can’t apply here. And in any case it’s the procedure for when the Lords throws a bill out entirely, by refusing to give it a second or third reading. In this case the rules of ping-pong will apply and the bill will fall if it hits “double insistence” – the Lords insisting on its amendments twice and the Commons removing them twice. The Commons will therefore have to offer some compromises in order to persuade the Lords to accept removal of the amendments.
Thanks for that – I’ve updated the blog accordingly!