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Cities set to demand devolution

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The leaders and mayors of the country’s 10 largest city economies outside of London are set to call on the government to devolve powers and funding.

Just one week after the general election, members of Core Cities UK were due to meet in Westminster, London, today to launch a ‘devolution declaration’ which sets out how major cities could transform the country.

They want increased powers to create more skills and jobs through locally tailored initiatives; control over transport funds, local bus services, and rail policy; a freedom to decide how housing funds are best spent locally, and to create statutory spatial strategies to maximise growth and development.

A press release announcing the declaration highlighted it came 228 years to the day since the start of the first constitutional convention which began in Philadelphia and set out powers for a modern state in North America.

Cities should also be able to retain the proceeds from selected taxes, including property taxes and a percentage of income tax, the declaration argues, and calls for a debate on how some taxes could be controlled locally in the long term “within a system that redistributes resources and doesn’t disadvantage places that don’t have a strong tax base to start with”.

The Core Cities UK group consists of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. In an open letter sent to national politicians last week, the leaders and mayors of those cities claimed that “independent forecasts demonstrate that with greater freedoms the eight English core cities alone could deliver an additional £222bn and 1.16 million jobs into the economy by 2030”.

The Conservatives’ manifesto said “far-reaching powers” would be devolved to “large cities which choose to have elected mayors”.

In a statement Sir Richard Leese (Lab), leader of Manchester City Council and chair of Core Cities UK, said: “If the new government is serious about economic growth and deficit reduction, it should prioritise maintaining a dialogue with us. Our offer is to work with them to rebalance, reform and renew Britain.

“Rebalance and grow the economy to create more jobs and eliminate the deficit. Reform public services to improve outcomes and reduce costs through better co-ordination of funding and services, focusing on people and place. Renew democracy to give people a major stake in their own future.”

Tony Travers of the London School of Economics and Political Science is due to speak at today’s event. He said the post-election period was “a key time” for the devolution agenda and added he thought cities had “made a convincing argument” for more powers and controls to be handed down to them.

“Despite progress, the UK is still one of the most centralised countries in the world,” he said. “Fiscal control is incredibly limited and we must work with Westminster to change that.”

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