Nick Clegg calls for English devolution

NICK CLEGG will today launch a report calling for a major programme of devolution within England in the decade after the next election.

Nick Clegg MP in Selkirk Market Square ahead of next Thursday's referendum. Picture: TSPL
Nick Clegg MP in Selkirk Market Square ahead of next Thursday's referendum. Picture: TSPL

The report, by the IPPR North think-tank, calls for a new wave of “metro mayors” for city regions, and would give greater powers to vary taxes to local councils.

The 10-year plan identifies 40 different functions of government which need to be devolved and covers powers and budgets held in 13 different Whitehall departments.

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The Deputy Prime Minister has backed the need for decentralisation and said that there would need to be a “rewiring” of the constitution following next week’s Scottish referendum, after significant new powers were promised to Holyrood if there is a No vote.

The IPPR plan would lead to a new wave of combined authorities, such as in Greater Manchester, with the possibility of directly elected “metro mayors” for city regions.

The report calls for fiscal devolution to be a central plank of the 2015 comprehensive spending review, with five-year funding settlements agreed and an independent body established to take forward further central-local funding reforms.

The plan could eventually lead to property taxes and business rates to be devolved to combined authorities and, eventually, a proportion of income tax to be assigned to them.

IPPR North director Ed Cox, said: “Whichever way Scotland votes next week, Edinburgh will get new powers and widen the gap with local leaders across England.

“England has waited patiently while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been given ever great devolution. Now is the time to redress the balance and devolve powers to English city-regions.

“England’s 80-year experiment with centralisation has failed. It’s England’s turn for a ‘devo-more’ moment and there is a growing political consensus in Westminster on the need to answer ‘the English question’. Our plan for a decade of devolution is a practical roadmap that politicians can rally round.”

Mr Clegg spoke of the need for English devolution when he appeared before the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee earlier this week.

He said the devolution of further powers to Scotland would “signal a much wider rewiring of the governance and constitutional arrangements in the country as a whole, particularly governance within England which remains an unusually over-centralised country”.

He said further decentralisation of power in England away from Whitehall was the “big missing bit of that jigsaw”.