Greater Manchester’s interim mayor backs devolution across England

13 Jul 16

The interim mayor of Greater Manchester Tony Lloyd has called for the powers and investment in towns, cities and regions across the whole of England to be boosted as part of a devolution drive.

Speaking at the CIPFA annual conference today, Lloyd, who is also Manchester’s police and crime commissioner, criticised the imbalance in modern Britain and central government’s lack of capacity to cater to the needs of the country’s regions.

“We need a constitutional settlement not simply for large, metropolitan areas like Greater Manchester but for the whole of England,” he said. “I’ve spent most of my life as a national politician and developed a fairly low view of the capacity of central government to deliver to the nations and the regions of this country.”

While he stressed he did not “lay every issue at the door of central government”, he highlighted that Whitehall’s economic policies are “preoccupied” with London to the detriment of the rest of the country and that the capital city has benefited from far more investment.

“What is ridiculous is the imbalance in funding,” he said, noting that it would transformative for the economy if transport links across the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ – Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Birmingham – matched those in the capital.

The ability to break away from an “over-siloised” and inefficient central government that seems “incapable” of delivering for its local counterparts through devolution has brought extraordinary benefits for Greater Manchester, he said.

Lloyd told delegates of the impact of public service reform, economic growth, education, housing, finance and social programmes across Greater Manchester as part of their devolution deals.

“Local delivery is massively more efficient than central government programmes because we can tailor structures around the needs of individuals, rather than trying to fit individuals into artificial, central government-led targets,” he said, of the region’s working well scheme.

Lloyd said he hopes to cooperate with other regions to help replicate the Greater Manchester model and make a “huge difference to the imbalance in modern Britain”.

As well as relishing the opportunity to deliver “in a way that simply wasn’t there in the past”, he highlighted a number of challenges, for example, how to change the fact that the region’s public spending far outweighs its tax contributions.

Natasha Stern, associate principal at McKinsey & Company, who also spoke in the session, highlighted that boosting productivity in regions like Greater Manchester will be crucial to the UK’s continued economic success.

“The source of growth is going to be fundamentally different to what it has been decades ago,” she said. “It is productivity that will do the heavy lifting. Sustained growth will depend on cities, particularly large, non-capital cities.”

She said the UK should be focusing on supporting productivity growth in such cities and highlighted four ways local government could contribute. These were: ensuring local communities develop the skills needed by local employers; investing in local infrastructure; meeting the needs of local businesses that are key to local growth; and procuring supplies and services through smaller, local businesses.

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