Empowering English Cities: a blueprint for future devolution?

The creation of regional authorities with metro mayors in regions such as the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and the West of England to name but a few was designed to kick start a devolution revolution. These regional authorities would gain access to billions of pounds in funding and new powers to accelerate decision-making.

Now, there are calls to go further, with the publishing of the Empowering English Cities report, authored by former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Heseltine. Metro Mayor Andy Street has called the report “bold and ambitious” in recommending how cities “can compete on fair terms with similar conurbations around the globe.” The key proposals of the report include:

  • Government to transfer day-to-day responsibility for affordable housing, school performance, skills and employment programmes to combined authorities

  • Mayoral combined authorities to have greater powers to raise local taxes – including receiving the local road tax, airport passenger duty and tourism taxes

  • More capital funding for transport, skills and housing to be devolved from Government departments

  • New Government Department for the English Regions led by a Cabinet minister and a Metro Mayors committee chaired by the Prime Minister

How the government might respond to the report is up for debate, not least because of the imminent arrival of a new Prime Minister. However, there is seemingly growing pressure on national government to act in order to ensure that cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and other regional authorities can compete with their counterparts overseas, with Rotterdam, Lyon, Frankfurt and Milan identified by Mr Street. Certainly, time is of the essence.

Matthew Roberts - Senior Account Executive