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Clegg backs regional devolution

Words: Laura Edgar
Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg is backing devolution of powers to cities.

The deputy prime minister is in Sheffield today arguing that the Scottish referendum debate has sparked people’s interest and engagement in politics. In particular, Clegg will outline his vision for decentralisation and devolution for the North of England as he launches a new IPPR North report, Decentralisation decade.

The report explains that all but one (Bristol) of the eight ‘core cities’ in England outside of London – Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield, Bristol and Manchester -  have consistently performed below average with regards to GDP per capita.

The report further explains that public service improvement is “especially pertinent in a nation looking to reduce its fiscal deficit” and that public discontent with Westminster has created a political storm. The IPPR argue that 80 years of centralisation has failed and it is time to start again.

The IPPR recommends embarking on a 10-year decetralisation programme based on a series of safeguards to make sure major risks are avoided and with a clear timetable for enabling the decentralisation of 40 key regions, which will take on many of the fiscal and political functions currently held by central government. In particular, combined and local authorities should have reposnsibility for the economic development of their area, the report argues.

A post on the Liberal Democrat website explains that Clegg is expected to say that the time is now to push for decentralisation. Over the last decades, powers have shifted out to every nation of the UK except England.

The deputy prime minister will say: “Successive governments, from both the left and right, [have been] concentrating power in Whitehall and relying too much on the City of London’s profits to power the rest of our country’s economy. The facts speak for themselves - for every 10 private sector jobs created in the South under ten years of the last government, there was only one job generated in the North.

“Yet, what makes this government different from the generations of Westminster politicians who’ve paid lip service to this before is that we’re putting our money where our mouth is - we’re delivering real power and control to local areas.”

The IPPR report follows hot on the heels of a City Growth Commission report arguing that the UK's 15 leading cities should have greater political and economic powers.