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14.05.18

Cheshire needs immediate deal on ‘compelling’ devolution plans

Despite its significant progress, the north still has a number of “notable regional gaps” in devolution, with some of these still facing an unclear future.

These are the findings of a major new report by Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), the body chaired by former chancellor George Osborne, which claimed that while a number of these gaps are “at an advanced stage of being resolved,” others still face a “less clear” way forward and require further thinking.

“What unites them is the benefits that devolution could bring in unlocking economic growth. It is vital that government does not seek to impose a standardised blueprint or straightjacket based solely on existing models,” the report explained.

“Those places that have led devolution have proved the case for what can be achieved. It is important that others have their own identity and freedom, given their unique circumstances, and be convincing about their ability to deliver and take responsibility.”

The NPP also outlined the case for a devolution agreement in Cheshire which, much like Yorkshire, does not fit into the “predominantly city-based model” for devolved politics.

But the organisation’s vice-chair, Lord Jim O’Neill, said he considered the strength of the proposition in Cheshire “quite compelling.”

“Alongside key economic centres such as Warrington and Chester and in particular Crewe which will be directly connected to HS2, key sites in advanced manufacturing and energy function alongside world leading assets like Alderley Park,” O’Neill wrote.

“This demonstrates the significant importance of the corridor in health innovation stretching out from Cheshire linking the wider assets in Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester.”

There is also a high level of consensus between the region’s councils, as well as full support and input of the LEP and businesses in Cheshire – which is the country’s second most productive place.

“Specifically, the barriers of transport connectivity within the economic area, as well as priorities in skills, make a compelling case which demonstrates a combined authority and metro mayor government should have confidence in,” continued O’Neill.

“My firmly-held view is that government should be prepared to conclude a deal immediately, ensuring it is one of many steps to decentralisation the chancellor can deliver in this year’s Autumn Budget.”

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