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Treasury chief secretary moots tax and planning devolution

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The chief secretary to the Treasury has mooted devolving more planning and tax-raising powers to the English regions as part of the upcoming spending review.

In an interview with the Spectator Liz Truss (Con), said she’d like areas like North East Derbyshire, Middlesbrough and Bolton to have more freedom in making planning decisions, in part to tackle housing shortages.

“I think one of the things we should consider is allowing cities, counties, to operate their own planning policy,” she told the Spectator.

“I think those are the kinds of things, if we start moving the dial on, that can really attract younger voters.”

Ms Truss also floated the idea of potentially allowing English towns to have more tax-setting powers, including for income tax, calling devolution in this area “an interesting proposal”.

“There is a lot of evidence that by devolving tax-raising powers you help boost economic growth,” she said.

She also confirmed that the future of the HS2 rail project, connecting London to cities across the Midlands and the North, will feature in a review of major investment projects across government.

She argued that local economies depend on transport “around counties” and “into cities”.

“We have to be rigorous about what infrastructure is going to maximise opportunities for people.”

In further remarks, Ms Truss expressed skepticism about raising taxes for online retailers to ease the pressure on their high street counterparts, arguing that the focus should be opening markets to new entrants.

“I see the high street developing in new and different ways,” she said. “You can’t sit there in Whitehall and say: this is our plan for how people should be buying things.”

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