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Big cities should have greater financial control - says report

City regions should be given the powers to revalue council tax as well as pool and allocate central government revenue without ring-fencing, according to a new report by the City Growth Commission.

The commission, established by the Royal Society of Arts, which has been taking evidence over the last 10 months, stated that over-centralised decision-making is stifling economic growth and holding cities back.

Its latest report – Powers to Grow: City Finance and Governance – argues that metropolitan areas across the UK should be able to take their seat at the table in national policy making and manage their own share of the national deficit.

However, it was noted that not all metros are ready to take this leap and will have to wait until their economic performance and governance structures lend themselves to devolution and enable them to ride the difficult storms of decentralisation.

Economist Jim O’Neill, chair of the RSA City Growth Commission, said: “Enabling the leaders of these major urban areas to decide what is right for them, and with it, for them to carry the responsibility for those decisions is crucial. In this report, we lay out the key areas of financial responsibility we believe should be transferred to some metros.”

In particular, the Commission has called for city-regions to have the power to pool revenue streams and leverage assets; raise and retain funding through new and existing taxes; and borrow more freely in open capital markets.

The report has also concluded that an independent City Region Devolution Committee should be developed, which would evaluate metro applications for ‘Devolved Status’.

It was noted that whilst much has been achieved under the Coalition to further the cause of city-led growth – City Deals and Growth Deals – the UK’s default mode of centralisation, which has emerged over the last half century, still represents a significant hurdle.

(Image: c. Joe Mott)

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