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Chancellor outlines devolution plan for English cities

Words: Laura Edgar

Chancellor George Osborne has laid out his plans for devolution to cities in England, declaring the “old model” of running everything from London broken.

Speaking in Manchester yesterday, Osborne said cities would get powers over planning, housing, transport and policing as well an elected mayor. A Cities Devolution Bill will feature in the Queen’s Speech later this month.

This follows an announcement in November in which Osborne said Manchester would get a directly elected mayor and devolved powers. In his first speech following the election Osborne said other cities should be able to have this too.

Osborne invited other cities to request greater devolution of powers, but added: “It has to involve an elected mayor. It is a proven model that works across the globe.”

The chancellor emphasised that he would not settle for less - an elected mayor is key to the process.

Responding to the announcement, the British Property Federation (BPF) said that devolution would drive development across the UK.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of BPF, said: “Local politicians need to be given the confidence to create their own vision for encouraging growth and investment within their areas. It makes much more sense for a local authority away from Westminster to make strategic development decisions in its area than for those in central government to do so, and it is great to see the government delivering on this promise.”

Acting chief executive at the Centre for Cities Andrew Carter said the “ability and willingness” of other city regions across the UK to respond to the invitation would depend on the extent to which combined authorities and cross-boundary working were established.

“In setting out the basis upon which future deals will be struck so early in the Parliament, the chancellor has put the ball firmly in the court of local politicians across UK cities, who now face a stark choice as to whether to maintain their resistance to adopting a city-region mayor and risk missing out on the benefits of further devolution, or resolve to broker agreement locally for new strategic city-region leadership in exchange for new powers to boost growth,” he said.

Osborne also said Scotland and Wales would receive their devolution promises.