“The Centre for Cities welcomes the Adonis Review’s strong emphasis on devolving more power and funding to cities, as an integral part of its recommendations for driving greater and more balanced prosperity across the UK through investment in skills, innovation, business support and infrastructure. As the Labour party debates the recommendations in the coming weeks, the emphasis must be on keeping cities at the heart of a strategy for a prosperous economy, rather than downgrading them to a separately policy area; cities are integral to sustainable economic growth.
For far too long, Britain’s status as one of the most highly centralised developed nations in the world has enabled many cities, particularly in the North, to fall behind. The significant disparities in economic strength and performance across the UK are holding down wages and productivity, and threaten to undermine the long-term sustainability of our economic recovery. Many cities cannot raise the funds to invest alongside private partners, and they lack the powers to be proactive and innovative to respond to the rapid pace of change in a global economy.
For UK cities to be internationally competitive, to support job creation and improve standards of living, they need to be able to match the level of control over budgets and resources held by their successful European counterparts. But cities currently lack the mandate and the authority to raise enough income through taxation to drive real change in their communities. Devolving greater authority to cities, including tax-raising powers, will put the tools of change in the hands of those with the local knowledge and experience to make a real difference.
Given 50 per cent of commuters in cities live and work in different local authorities, empowering Combined Authorities offers the opportunity to improve on the full scope of people’s lives. Affording the same level of power held by the Greater London Authority to areas such as Greater Manchester and Greater Leeds would promote the unified approach towards transport investment and strategic planning so critical to improving connectivity and liveability in North.
Yet successive governments have so far failed to deliver radical devolution and ultimately, the successes of any moves towards greater devolution will depend on the detail: the means by which funds are awarded, over what time period, the extent to which devolution is packaged with strings attached and the ability of Whitehall to delay change through lengthy negotiation.
The Centre is delighted to see both major parties beginning to articulate clear visions for growing the UK’s cities. These ambitions and rhetoric must now be matched by sustained action and investment that truly delivers on the promise of change.”
For more information or to request an interview, contact Sophie Gaston