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Government working towards further devolution deals

George Osborne has stated that the government is working towards devolution deals with the Sheffield City Region, Liverpool City Region, and Leeds, West Yorkshire and partner authorities as part of building a Northern Powerhouse. 

He stated that the plans are to be agreed in parallel with the Spending Review. And if agreement is reached, including on an elected mayor working with local leaders to oversee new powers devolved from ministers, these city regions will be granted significant additional powers and the opportunity to take control of their own affairs to support economic growth. 

On top of this, building on the ground-breaking devolution deal agreed in November 2014, the government is making further progress on devolving powers to Greater Manchester. 

This includes putting Fire Services under the control of the new directly-elected mayor, establishing a Greater Manchester Land Commission, granting the city region more powers over planning subject to the agreement of the Cabinet member representing the district in which the power is used, and inviting discussion of how central government and the city region might collaborate further on children’s services and employment programmes. 

“Devolution to the nations of the United Kingdom is well established,” said the chancellor. “In my view devolution within England has only just begun.” 

Responding to the chancellor's announcement, Tony Lloyd, interim mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “Today’s announcements are another welcome sign of progress in Greater Manchester’s journey to becoming a place of opportunity for all.

“The role of individual local authorities in shaping the future of their own areas is as strong as ever. But by working together, we are increasingly seeing Greater Manchester being empowered to make decisions which address the region’s priorities and needs – rather than being dictated to by Whitehall and Westminster.

“There are welcome announcements in today’s budget, the increase in the minimum wage will bring money in to the pockets of Greater Manchester families and businesses. One thing that will hold us back is the decision to withdraw grants from the poorest students going to university and there is a glaring omission, the Government have today failed to keep their promises on the rail projects that are key to the delivery of northern economic growth and I challenge George Osborne to tell us when he will deliver on this promise. We also need to see the full details of proposed cuts as these emerge.”  

The government also intends to support towns and counties to play their part in growing the economy, offering them the opportunity to agree devolution deals. In particular, it was noted that “good progress” is being made with regards to a deal for Cornwall. 

In response Cornwall Council leader John Pollard said “As I have stated over the past few months, we have been working with partners to prepare a ‘Case for Cornwall’ which sets out ambitious proposals for greater powers, freedoms, flexibilities and support to be given by the Government to Cornwall. 

“These proposals are designed to allow the people of Cornwall to benefit from an integrated health and social care system, significant economic growth, more affordable homes, greater access to employment and training opportunities, together with a much improved public transport network. 

“As such we welcome today’s positive comments from the chancellor which set out the government’s plans to honour its manifesto commitment to devolve far reaching powers from London to counties and look forward to continuing to work with civil servants to agree a Cornwall Deal which enables the Case for Cornwall proposals to be delivered.” 

The County Councils Network has welcomed the announcement of a devolution deal for Cornwall, in a statement which refers to “billions of pounds” of devolved spending. 

CCN director Simon Edwards said: “Given the potential benefits of devolution to county areas we strongly welcome the historic deals which have been announced today. 

“These are ground-breaking, not only in enabling real service reform and sustainable growth in their localities, but in setting a precedent for the empowerment of county communities across the country.” 

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, added: “Today’s devolution announcements are ambitious and encouraging, and show that government really is committed to giving local areas the opportunity to take control of the reins. 

“While Manchester is steaming ahead, it is great to see that other areas are not far behind, with a number of further devolution deals for several regions in the offing. 

“It is critical, however, that we don’t get stuck in a constitutional quagmire and fixate on elected mayors. The key to success and attracting investment is to have a coherent, positive vision for an area, creating a place where people can live, work and play, and this is not dependent on having a mayor in place.” 

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