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Benn details £30bn devolution plan

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Shadow communities secretary Hilary Benn has pledged to pass money, power, and responsibility down to “cities and counties”.

Mr Benn told delegates at the Labour party conference in Manchester yesterday that he wanted to see “the biggest economic decentralisation in a century”.

He said if Labour won the general election in May, £30bn in Whitehall efficiency savings would, over the course of the next parliament, be passed “to city and county regions” to help them invest in infrastructure improvements, build new homes and create jobs.

As part of this, the government would work with councils to commission a new work programme.

“That’s why we will give local areas control of the funding for further education for 19- to 24-year-olds,” he said.

Mr Benn added Labour would pool money for health and social care to help “provide better integrated care”.

He said: “I want cities and counties, towns and districts, parishes and neighbourhoods to make more decisions for themselves and to have more control over the money they raise and contribute.”

Mr Benn said he wanted the system to be “fair”. He argued the coalition government had taken money away from the most deprived places.

“It’s not fair and we will change it,” he said. “We will make sure that the money we have is fairly shared. We will make sure devolution goes hand in hand with redistribution from each according to their ability to contribute, to each according to their need.”

Meanwhile, Mr Benn pledged to put a stop to the government’s controversial decision to remove the “spare room subsidy” in housing benefits.

“We reject the bedroom tax and we will scrap it,” he said.

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