Last edited 10 May 2021

Cities Devolution Bill

On 14 May 2015, speaking at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester, in his first speech since the election, chancellor George Osborne discussed his plans for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, and suggested there will be a “...revolution in the way we govern England" ref Chancellor on building a Northern Powerhouse.

Steps have already been taken to devolve power over policing, skills, housing, transport and social care in the North, however, Osborne suggested that other parts of the country had asked “why can’t we have a powerhouse here?”

He announced that a Cities Devolution Bill will be introduced allowing other cities, to take greater control and responsibility over transport and housing, skills, and public services such as health and social care. Alongside this, new city-wide elected mayors will be introduced who will work with local councils.

He suggested that “one of the paradoxes of the modern, knowledge based economy is that technology has not pushed people apart, it has drawn them together. People want to cluster together in communities and feed off each other’s ideas. City size matters more than ever before... Economic evidence shows there is a powerful correlation between city size and the productivity of its inhabitants. The top 600 cities in the world contain just 20% of the global population, but contribute 60% to global GDP.”

Osborne made clear that devolution would not be imposed on cities, but that his “… door is open to any other major city who‎ wants to take this bold step into the future…It’s up to local people and their elected representatives on councils to decide whether they are interested in their communities taking part in this new revolution in city government.”

The Bill will be taken through parliament by James Wharton, new Minister for the Northern Powerhouse in the Department for Communities and Local Government. Jim O’Neill, ex-Chair of the City Growth Commission was appointed as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, to help make city devolution happen.

Osborne also announced an extension of the City Deals programme, possible fiscal devolution, possible devolution of some aspects of employment support and an invitation to create more Enterprise Zones.

In June 2015, Department of Communities and Local Government minister Baroness Williams told the House of Lords “Although we have been quite tied up with the concept of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, there are great counties, such as Cornwall, which will be very keen to put forward some of their proposals, and the government are very keen to have a conversation with them"

In August 2015, the government published a blueprint for improved transport links for the Northern Powerhouse and a review of obstacles to business start-ups and entrepreneurship in disadvantaged communities by businesswoman Michelle Mone OBE. See Northern Powerhouse transport blueprint for more information.

In March 2016, Uneven growth: tackling city decline, a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that 10 of the UK’s top 12 struggling cities were in the north, and that three of these were in Greater Manchester, where many powers had been devolved.

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