Miliband in English devolution vow


Published: Friday 31st October 2014 by The News Editor

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A Labour government would pass an English Devolution Act, transferring control over £30 billion worth of funding to England’s cities and counties, Ed Miliband has announced.

The Labour leader said the law change would build on his party’s devolution of powers to Scotland and Wales under the previous Government, and ensure that economic recovery benefits all parts of England, and not just the City of London.

Authorities in the English regions would receive devolved funding of £30 billion over five years to spend in areas like transport, housing infrastructure, business support, skills and employment, while new powers to regulate bus services would be granted to city or county regions which want them, said Mr Miliband.

The announcement was being made at a preparatory meeting of a new English Regional Cabinet Committee, which Mr Miliband said would become a regular feature of a Labour government after next May’s election, bringing together the Prime Minister and senior ministers with leaders from major English cities and counties.

The meeting in Manchester was due to discuss plans to devolve additional powers to the combined authorities which have been created by councils coming together voluntarily in areas including Greater Manchester, Liverpool, West Yorkshire, the Sheffield area and the North-East, including the power to elect a single political leader for the region.

Labour sources said the party would enable the establishment of combined authorities in rural county areas, as well as around major cities. And it would give combined authorities control over the full revenue from business rates, allowing them to retain 100% of additional money raised, as well as joining up council and NHS commissioning of long-term care.

Speaking before chairing the first meeting of the new committee, Mr Miliband described Labour’s proposals as “a radical plan for spreading power and prosperity across England’s city and county regions, so that the recovery reaches your town square – not just the Square Mile of the City of London”.

The proposals would “reverse a century of centralisation so that every region of England can benefit from the local planning and support the last Labour government delivered for Scotland and Wales,” he said.

Mr Miliband said that Labour would allow cities and county regions which come together in combined authorities to take greater control over deregulated bus services in their areas, allowing them to set routes and fares, integrate services with other public transport links and introduce smart ticketing schemes like London’s Oyster card.

Vowing to “put the public interest back on our buses”, the Labour leader said: “For too long powers to regulate and integrate bus services have been enjoyed only by London.

“For too long, the other regions of England have been unable to plan ahead or join up their transport networks to help secure the prosperity they need.

“For too long everyday working people have found their journey to work made harder and more expensive than it needs to be by a deregulated system that fails to serve the public interest.

“And for too long this issue has been ignored by Westminster: prosperity in one party of the country; power devolved in one part of the country; services not run for the public interest everywhere else. That stops today.”

Published: Friday 31st October 2014 by The News Editor

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