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01.07.14

Cautious welcome from LGA for Adonis £30bn devolution plans

The Adonis Growth Review is recommending major devolutions to the cities and counties of England to boost growth, with “serious responsibility for planning and delivering infrastructure, including planning transport, housing and training”.

The proposals could see £30bn devolved from central to local government over the next Parliament.

Lord Adonis, Labour’s former transport secretary and schools minister who has been undertaking a year-long growth review for the party, said devolution was necessary partly because the radical recommendations of Michael Heseltine’s ‘No Stone Unturned: In Pursuit of Growth’ remain unimplemented.

Adonis said: “I have spoken to Michael Heseltine and, when it comes to creating really strong and powerful cities and city regions, we broadly agree. The issue is actually getting action because, of course, the one thing Whitehall never wants to do is give up power and resources. He said there would be a huge struggle; there has been a huge struggle and there's been some devolution, but not much. And what the cities want is to see significantly more devolution and responsibility, living up to the proposals that Lord Heseltine set out.”

Outgoing LGA chairman Sir Merrick Cockell said: “Local government has long been calling for greater fiscal devolution, a more localised approach to business rates and adult skills and an end to overly complex and fragmented funding. It is encouraging to see that these have been recognised in this report.

“Councils have been frustrated by the lack of progress in devolving growth funding to local areas. We have long said that the current £2bn Local Growth Fund fails to match the ambition councils have for playing a central role in economic growth.

“Local government is up for the challenge and anything which advances this debate is a positive step in the right direction. We hope the Labour party takes proposals in these areas seriously. While the devil is in the detail, we will be keen to discuss these proposals with shadow ministers to ensure money is devolved without added bureaucracy and burdensome conditions.”

Adonis said: “Whitehall needs to hand down budgets and powers for this purpose – not just talk about handing them down, as the Coalition has done since the Heseltine Report. England’s business leaders and local governments need empowering to invest in infrastructure, skills and economic development.

“While big numbers dominate discussions about economic growth, the real story exists in the company, or the cluster, or the school, or the city.

“My overriding aim is to promote a smarter, not a more expensive, state. We need to build on the best of Britain and be optimistic that the best is yet to come.”

The report launch is in danger of being overshadowed by a row about jobs statistics, with Labour using apparently out-of-date figures on the number of new private sector jobs that were created in London. Centre for Cities’ gave its own view on the debate earlier this year.

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