English and Welsh councillors demand more powers to keep pace with Scotland

29 Sep 14

More powers for Scotland must be matched by devolution of tax, spending and welfare powers in England and Wales, according to a poll of council leaders and Cabinet members.

The Local Government Information Unit survey of more than 2,000 senior councillors in England and Wales, found that 96% wanted more powers to be devolved. Almost two-thirds (61%) felt these powers would be best held by councils, while a fifth (19%) said they should be transferred to sub-regions.

Among the specific powers respondents wanted to see devolved were control over business rates (favoured by 93%), freedom to borrow and spend (favoured by 84%) and ability to raise local taxes (favoured by 79%).

Around three-quarters (73%) of respondents said councils should control all local public spending, although less than a third (30%) favoured devolving the ability to vary the top and bottom rates of income tax.

Commenting on the findings, LGIU chief executive Jonathan Carr-West said: ‘Following the Scottish referendum, we have heard a lot of talk about English parliaments and regional assemblies. But the recent history of proposed constitutional change: AV, elected mayors, regional assemblies, does not suggest that it’s what people want.

‘Instead, as this survey shows, we need to focus on the democratic structures we already have in place across the rest of the UK.

‘We need to think about increasing local tax-raising powers, varying business rates, pooling budgets for all public spending, including health, and making sure that budget is managed by democratically elected local representatives. That’s how we can give people a real sense of control over the places they live in and the services they use.’

LGIU surveyed every council leader and cabinet member in England and Wales. A total of 2317 surveys were sent out and responses received from 257 (11%) councillors.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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