A FORMER trade minister who hopes to be Labour’s candidate for London mayor has called on the UK’s capital to have the same devolved powers over tax and welfare as Scotland.
Gareth Thomas, who is hoping he can succeed Boris Johnson as mayor next year, has made a radical pitch to London voters in Labour’s primary to select a candidate to push for massive devolution to the capital.
We need power to deal with the tragedy of povertyGareth Thomas
His views come as Jo Valentine, who chairs London First – the membership organisation representing the capital’s biggest employers in financial services, property, transport, hospitality, retail and universities – said that Scottish-style devolution would make London the best place to do business in the world.
Baroness Valentine called for “a mega-city deal” and suggested London could raise £50 billion if it was given the same autonomy that Scotland is due to enjoy with the Smith Commission proposals.
The comments are the latest pushing for a federal structure in the UK, with Chancellor George Osborne already laying down plans for a “Northern Cities” deal to help create a rival to London.
Mr Thomas, who is competing against former culture secretary Tessa Jowell and MPs Sadiq Khan, David Lammy and Diane Abbott to be Labour’s candidate for mayor in 2016, said: “I believe we should look at London having greater control over income tax. We need the powers over our wealth to deal with the tragedy of our poverty.
“That includes more power over our NHS, our schools and skills and employment training.
“London is the most expensive place to live in the UK and the worst place to move around in. The quality of life of Londoners suffers because of that. The lived experiences of working Londoners I believe is worse than that of any other city dwellers in the country.
“As mayor, I want the powers to change that.”
His views come after controversy earlier this year over claims by Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy that a UK mansion tax on homes worth £2 million or more, mostly on properties in London, could be used to fund 1,000 extra nurses in Scotland – comments which infuriated senior Labour figures in London.
Last night the SNP claimed that the demands for devolution to London were a result of their success. A spokesman said: “That Scotland is being held up as a success story of devolved government highlights the success of the SNP in office over the last eight years.”