Councils in England demand their own devolution

Lord Smith has a key role in hammering out a deal. Picture: SWNS

Lord Smith has a key role in hammering out a deal. Picture: SWNS

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COUNCIL leaders across England have joined forces to demand the government give them more powers to run their own affairs.

The leaders of 119 councils – including 65 controlled by Labour, 40 by the Conservatives and 10 by the Liberal Democrats – warn that voters in England will not accept greater devolution to Scotland unless there is a similar redistribution of power south of the Border.

They called on the Chancellor to use his Autumn Statement on Wednesday to set out a “new settlement for England” which devolves power from Westminster and shares out tax and spending across the UK “on a fair basis”.

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“Earlier this week, the Smith Commission [on Scottish devolution] set out a better deal for Scotland, granting more control over funding and recognising the importance of devolving power down beyond Holyrood. It’s England’s turn now,” they wrote.

“The people we represent, who look north of the Border with envy at the greater control Scots are to get ... will expect nothing less.”

The leaders also warned Mr Osborne that having seen their budgets slashed by 40 per cent over the current parliament, local government could not afford another punishing round of “austerity” cuts.

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“Funding for services provided by councils has borne the brunt of austerity, while demand continues to rise. When the Chancellor delivers his Autumn Statement this Wednesday, ‘more of the same’ cannot be an option,” they said.

Local government minister Kris Hopkins warned that councils could not be exempt from the continued need to find savings. “Local government accounts for a quarter of all public spending and must play its part in paying off the deficit left by the last administration,” she said.

“All councils should be making sensible savings and keeping council tax down by merging back office services or doing more joint working.”

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