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Friday, 12 September 2014

England needs ‘devo-more’ no matter how Scotland votes

England needs a decade of devolution, according to a new report published today by the think tank IPPR North. With a week to go until Scotland goes to the polls in their independence referendum, the new report sets a master plan for a 10 year timetable to decentralise the governance of England and pass control over funding and powers held in Whitehall to the major cities and counties of England.

The report will be launched by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party. The report points to increasing all-party consensus over decentralisation and devolution in England and sets out a 10 year roadmap to devolve powers over:
  • The economy
  • Education and skills
  • The Work Programme
  • Housing
  • Transport
  • Criminal justice, probation and the police
The plan identifies 40 different functions of government which need to be devolved and covers powers and budgets held in 13 different Whitehall departments. 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. Ultimately, 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.

The report argues that a new wave of combined authorities should be established, including ‘county combined authorities’ in two-tier areas, with all combined authorities setting out clear plans for partnership-working and enhanced democratic accountability. It says that decentralisation should be ‘asymetrical’ because not every area will want, or be able, to proceed at the same pace.

Ed Cox, Director of IPPR North, commented: "Whichever way Scotland votes next week, Edinburgh will get new powers and widen the gap with local leaders across England. England has waited patiently while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been given ever great devolution. Now is the time to redress the balance and devolve powers to English city-regions."

Continuing Mr Cox said: "England’s eighty year experiment with centralisation has failed. It’s England’s turn for a ‘devo-more’ moment and there is a growing political consensus in Westminster on the need to answer ‘the English question’. Our plan for a decade of devolution is a practical roadmap that politicians can rally round."