Government urged to hand cities more powers

Published on Friday, 28 March 2014 10:10
Written by Daniel Mason

Local authorities in major cities should be handed powers currently only available to the London mayor to help them "realise their potential", a thinktank has said.

The Centre for Cities argued that extra responsibilities should be granted to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the other four forthcoming so-called 'super councils' in Merseyside, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and Tyne & Wear.

Incentives could also be offered to encourage other local authorities to work more closely together on issues such as transport, skills, housing and planning, according to the report, published yesterday – which described the UK as "one of the most centralised countries in the developed world".

The change was necessary because budgets cuts meant individual councils could find themselves with too few resources and powers to boost their economies, support businesses and help residents back into work, it said. However, it warned that these partnerships would be undermined if central government did not give them sufficient powers and freedoms to enable them to work effectively and efficiently.

The powers would include the ability to establish a Transport for London-style body, set levies to raise funding for economic growth projects, intervene in important planning issues, be able to acquire land for housing and regeneration, and to set affordable housing targets.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of the Centre for Cities, said: "Our cities will struggle to realise their economic potential, particularly in an era of reduced public spending, unless our over-centralised local government funding system changes.

"Government should build on City Deals and the recently announced combined authorities to create a framework for 'tailored devolution', with more powers and autonomy going to places willing to work more closely together. Local areas also need to be bold and come together to transform the way they support businesses, invest in transport and provide the services people use every day."

Meanwhile Richard McCarthy, an executive director at the outsourcing firm Capita – which sponsored the report – said allowing local councils to work together effectively "should enable greater economic growth in their area".

He added: "The private sector can play a key role in helping councils adopt commercial thinking and innovation to support the development of vital revenue generating initiatives and release resources and efficiency gains back into supporting the local economy."

Add comment