Business chiefs from the North West and London unite to demand greater devolution
15 May 2017
In a joint letter to the political parties, business chiefs have called for greater devolution to UK cities and regions as the next government focuses on Brexit negotiations.
The North West Business Leadership Team, representing national and international businesses with substantial commitments in the north west, London First, whose members include over 200 of the capital’s leading companies, and Centre for Cities, an independent think tank dedicated to improving UK city economies, have argued that greater control over the revenues generated by locally raised taxes – such as property and council taxes — would give local institutions greater incentive to drive investment and growth, and the means to fund it.
The letter from the organisations, which are committed to finding ways for London, the north west and cities and regions around the UK to work more closely together, states that:
At a time when central government is focused on Brexit, devolved institutions should be given powers and resources to deliver economic growth
Retaining local property tax revenue, for example, would give a strong incentive to support new development and the resources to manage the public costs
Certainty of income streams would provide a foundation for prudential borrowing to deliver critical local investment
Economic decision making would be improved
Innovation and productivity gains would follow
Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of London First, said: “The new government will be rightly focused on Brexit through the next parliament, but we can’t afford to take our eye off the ball when it comes to the economy. Speeding up devolution in England will help local government prioritise investments that will drive growth across the country – the so-called “devolution dividend” – and get the UK into the best possible shape ahead of 2019.
“In London, less than 10% of our income is directly managed by those people elected locally and closest to what our capital needs. To keep the economy growing, central government will have to loosen its grip on the purse strings.”
Juergen Maier, chair of the North West Business Leadership Team and CEO of Siemens UK, said: “The election of the new City Region Mayors is an opportunity for us to work much more closely together to develop the strong regions we need if we are to effectively deliver on the promises of the Government’s forthcoming Industrial Strategy. This matters not just to the North but to the future success of the entire UK economy.”
Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: “In recent years we’ve seen important steps towards reversing decades of centralisation in the British political system, and the next Government should build on this progress by extending devolution across the country. That means working with the new metro mayors to make the most of the opportunities they face, and agreeing more devolution deals with other big cities like Leeds and Newcastle. It also means handing places more fiscal powers, to give them real incentives and measures to grow their local economies.”