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Labour pledges greater local devolution

Labour has pledged this week to devolve more powers on skills, transport and housing to every city or county region in England, if it wins this year’s general election. 

The party has promised to give back £30bn of funding over five years from Whitehall. Additionally, the shadow communities secretary, Hilary Benn, said Labour would set up regional banks to support local businesses. 

Benn said there was a “tide flowing” across the country in favour of shifting power away from London. 

He also criticised the Coalition’s “piecemeal” approach to devolution, which has seen agreements made with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Sheffield and Leeds city regions. 

Benn, alongside shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, told an invited audience at The Tetley Gallery how Labour would deliver the biggest devolution in England for 100 years earlier this week. 

The pledge says: “Labour has a better plan which will ensure your community benefits from a new era of prosperity. 

“We believe in devolution to create economic powerhouses, not just in one or two parts of the country, but in EVERY city and county region.” 

But local government secretary Eric Pickles said Labour’s plan was made to hinder the Conservative attempt to pass on job creation powers. 

It has also now been reported that former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine has said talks are already in place for a major devolution package for the West Midlands. 

The change would require a new combined authority, bringing together Birmingham, Solihull and Black Country councils and would probably demand an elected mayor. 

Speaking to the Birmingham Post, Lord Heseltine said: "There is no doubt at all – I know from my personal contact with him – the Chancellor wants to see the West Midlands at the centre of a significant shift of power from London to build on the remarkable changes already taking place here.” 

He added that a deal hasn’t “quite been concluded”, but it is certainly achievable.

(Image: c. Lynne Cameron)

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