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Further devolution needed for a smooth Brexit, Burnham tells government

The government should devolve more powers to English regions, according to Greater Manchester’s metro mayor.

Andy Burnham, the city region’s mayor, made the call for greater local control before the housing, communities and local government committee, which met at Manchester University on Monday.

He warned the committee that Brexit is going to have a “huge impact” on different aspects of people’s lives, and said that Whitehall is “creaking under the pressure” of the Brexit negotiations.

However, he said that devolved administrations across the country are “primed and ready” to make decisions on domestic issues to make the difference that people need.

“But we cannot do this while we have one hand tied behind our backs,” he said.

Burnham argued that devolving more power would allow regions to help their residents and ensure a smoother Brexit process, explaining that a key part of this is to ensure that the country has people with the right skills for employment once the UK has left the EU.

“Further devolution to allow a less fragmented post-16 skills system with clear and attractive choices for young people, including apprenticeships and T-Levels, would go a long way to connecting residents and businesses with the growth of Greater Manchester,” he said.

Greater Manchester’s NHS is expected to raise around £11.5m from the apprenticeship levy this year.

Burnham said that the rules stating that any levy paid has to be spent within two years, combined with the challenges of the apprenticeship reforms, means that it is likely that around £2.5m will be spent in the first year on approximately 1,300 new apprenticeships, leaving “an incredible amount” of money potentially left unspent and lost to Greater Manchester.

“We are already showing how we are moving faster and further than anyone else as we look to make our city-region the best place to grow up, get on and grow old.

“This money, as part of a wider devolution package, could prove vital in helping both our young people and us to achieve our aims,” he concluded.

Top image: Kirsty O'Connor PA WirePA Images edit

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