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Call for county combined authorities

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Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg will today launch a report endorsing a new wave of combined authorities, especially in two-tier areas.

Combined authorities should set out clear plans for partnership working and enhanced democratic accountability, according to the IPPR North’s report. It sets out a 10-year timetable to pass controls over funding and powers down from Whitehall to major cities and counties.

The report argues for fiscal devolution to be a central plank of the 2015 comprehensive spending review, with five-year funding settlements agreed and an independent body established to take forward further central-local funding reforms.

It argues for property taxes and business rates to be devolved to combined authorities and, eventually, a proportion of income tax to be assigned to them.

In response to the report, communities secretary Eric Pickles said: “Localism in England should be about devolving power to the lowest appropriate level – down to councils, to neighbourhoods and to individuals. There may be some role for combined authorities on a strategic level to promote economic development and transport, but there is a real risk they will suck power upwards away from local councils and local taxpayers.

“Nor should localism be a fig leaf for hitting hard-working people with a new range of municipal stealth taxes. Creating new taxes, more politicians and new tiers of local administration is not the answer – the starting point should be increasing local democracy and local accountability.”

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