Give our cities the tools to do the job and we will

by Joe Anderson

The signing of Magna Carta 800 years ago was a demand from the provinces for checks and balances on the power of the centre. Then, it was about curtailing the rights of kings. Today, the focus is on limiting the power of central government.

Last week, leaders from our largest Core Cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield – joined together to call for an irreversible transfer of control over tax and spending decisions. Power, in other words, devolved from Whitehall to the town hall – freeing-up locally elected and accountable councillors to shape the destinies of the places they represent.

The call coincides with a major new report from the think tank ResPublica: Restoring Britain’s City States: Devolution, Public Service Reform and Local Economic Growth’, which makes the case for cities being given new tax-raising powers, gaining greater control over business rates and even retaining a slice of income tax locally.

The report suggests a pilot project to allow a city-region to pioneer these ideas, becoming the first to be able to vary income and corporate tax rates and see if this helps with the task of rebalancing the UK economy.

Radical stuff, but long overdue. Too often in the past, governments have flunked the opportunity to devolve real power, leaving London to blossom, but manacling the capital with the weight of carrying the national economy as well. This is crazy.

We only need to see the state of London’s housing market to see how unbalanced our economy has now become – and how much potential across the rest of the country we are wasting as a result.

Although the Core Cities already deliver a quarter of the combined economic output of England, Wales and Scotland, much more can be done if we are given the tools to do the job. Remove the dead hand of Whitehall and let cities play to their strengths.

The outcome of the Scottish referendum on independence and the renewed focus on devolving extra powers means that the traditional foot-dragging about doing the same within England cannot be ignored any longer. The status quo is undemocratic and concentrates wealth, power and opportunity in the South.

Let the Core Cities now show what we can do.

Joe Anderson is Mayor of Liverpool


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12 Responses to “Give our cities the tools to do the job and we will”

  1. Fred says:

    Given the history of massive corruption in Labour councils. No thanks.

  2. Bob says:

    From Liverpool, watched Joe in action. refused referendum whether we even wanted a Mayor, just went on and held an election with a very poor turnout. Deceided it on very spurious grounds.

    Has employed Ged Fitzgerlad the ex chief executive of Rotherham, promised an investigation but could not find a chair for the enquirey. Fitzgerald was employed during the period covered by the Jay Report into CHILD RAPE AND SEXUAL ABUSE. As far as we know Liverpool has not had a scandal on this scale, has it and we don’t know yet?

    Has still not satisfactorily explained the Liverpool Direct Limited and BT tie up and its costs also some of its personnel went to Lancashire Council and now the police are investigating the whole thing.

    Spat his dummy over the leadership of the Combined Authority along with his crony Dowd (ppc Bootle) when they cold not be bothered to turn up on time for the meeting electing the leader (Davies from Wirral). Was never going to get the job anyway as the three others would have outvoted them.

    Spent millions to turn the Cunard Building into a cruise terminal with out the brains to realise it required a direct secure passage to the ships, instead put in taps worth hundreds of pounds instead.

    Introduced a licensing system for private landlords but conveniently missed out the Housing Association and Glass.

    We have seen the results of devolving power to the regions and cities on small scale such as Rotherham, Tower Hamlets and Oxford. Do we want it replicated across the country. remember Regional government is a thing desired by the EU.

    Joe, you are a waste of space supported by a very low turn out at the elections and hopefully you will be history at the next election.

  3. wg says:

    As Fred says – No Thanks.

    In the article above we have gone from “cities” in the title to “city regions” – I don’t want my city imposing its will on the countryside around me. And that is all this is – an attempt to ‘land grab’ by the Labour party.

    The unbalanced nature of this country has been contributed to by Labour’s open-door immigration policy.

    Labour won’t be happy until our countryside is concreted over and they have an iron grip on all areas of this once-beautiful country.

    I don’t want my local councillors to have any more power to tax me without the legal restraints for the people to stop them.

  4. I’ve long been a passionate advocate for regional devolution and subsidiarity so should be ecstatic at what appears to be happening at the moment. But, instead I’m fearful. The snide comment about “massive corruption in Labour councils” simply isn’t true, but I am fearful of devolving power without the appropriate democratic accountability. I don’t support the Tory idea of forcing city regions to have elected mayors, when local people have already voted to reject them. Although, I’d caveat that with saying those referenda were damaging to the concept of elected mayors. I was one of the few Labour members in Leeds campaigning in favour, but even then I didn’t totally believe in it, because they simply wouldn’t have had enough power and not enough would was to be devolved from the centre. The only way this can be done is by not rushing it. Devolution needs a fundamental re-invention of what local democracy is about. It means saying there are no sacred cows and that the future of local councils must be scrutinised. We should start with the principle that the new form of local accountability should cost no more than what is currently spent as that is all that would be acceptable to people disillusioned with politics. However, we shouldn’t submit to cynicism and agree to cut the cost of democracy, because the reality is that a big reason for the cynicism is we don’t invest enough in making it work.

  5. Tafia says:

    The snide comment about “massive corruption in Labour councils” simply isn’t true

    It was true round here – especially in abusing the planning and using confidential knowledge in order to get family member to purchase agricultural land that they knew was going to be re-zoned and developed. All freemasons as well. Paddy French and his RebeccaTV did a fantastic job of outing it all.

    It’s what caused the collapse in representation n the county council down to only 2 seats now, both of which are winnable by other people (they did have 3, but one quit the party and switched to independent because he says they still haven’t learnt their lesson.)

  6. Madasafish says:

    With devolution of powers comes accountability.

    Remind me how accounatble councillors in Rochdale are.

    Nothing more need be said.

  7. Bob says:

    Well Joe, any comment about what has been written here. Looks as if people don’t want ‘rotten boroughs’ does it. Giving non-entity local politicians more power only leads to another tier of the useless political class. Look what has happened locally in many local councils, Rochdale, Oxford, Rotherham and in your own city Liverpool, present and past.

    Tower Hamlets, currently run by commissioners and at present facing legal action in court due to allegations of corruption, bias and electoral fraud. We need to eliminate and prosecute this not encourage it !!

    Come Joe, stand up and defend actions in Liverpool that I have detailed above.

  8. Fred says:

    @Stuart Bruce my comment wasn’t snide at all. Perhaps if you removed your head from where the sun doesn’t shine and did a bit of googling you’d see what Labour councils get up to, up and down the country.

  9. Ex Labour says:

    I think Mr Anderson ought to read Rotten Boroughs in Private Eye and see what people think of him before spouting his nonsense.

    We have a Labour Council in my town and quite frankly words like “pissup” and “brewery” spring to mind. They are not corrupt just incompetent, well meaning people who couldn’t get a GCSE between them and who run things like a fiefdom.

    The thought of letting them have tax raising and other significant powers is a truely frightening thought. Would the appalling events of Rotherham have ever come to light with such a powerful local authority ?

  10. paul barker says:

    Perhaps Mr Anderson & Mr Burnham should have a chat ?

  11. Jo Owen says:

    I live in Birmingham, and the idea of our utterly chaotic and incompetent council getting more power fills me with horror. They have made a mess of everything they’ve touched over the last 10-20 years, and as for the comment above about corruption in Labour councils – well there’s no shortage of that in Birmingham. The planning and building services departments are riddled with it.

  12. Peter J says:

    Wow, such silly and bitter bile directed at Joe – personally I couldn’t care less how low the turnout was as long as someone won. He is literally the only one of note who is fighting for our great city and with a vision on how it can prosper.
    Instead of just being snide and destructive, why don’t you trolls suggest a better way of doing things instead? Oh, sorry, forgot, pointless trolls never do that. Or maybe you’re all closet tories, I mean how can anyone prefer whitehall?!?
    Good luck Joe, and thanks for fighting for a better future for our city no matter what a handful of clueless haters here are spouting on about. Just ignore them, like I will from now on too 😉

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