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Report suggests devolution for Manchester

Words: Laura Edgar

Manchester should be the first completely devolved city in England, a report by ResPublica has said.

The think tank’s report, Devo Max – Devo Manc: Place-based public services, suggests that Greater Manchester should be able to set its own income tax in five years as well as elect its own independent mayor.

The report, published on Monday 15 September, comes in the midst of heated debate about Scottish devolution and less than a week after after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg backed the devolution of powers to cities while launching the IPPR North report, Decentralisation decade.

In the Devo Max – Devo Manc report, ResPublica director Phillip Blond explains that the devolution of cities can lead to economic growth and that this could be the blueprint for other English cities. Blond recommends that public spending in the city should be brought under the control of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which would have a new governance structure. 

The authority should also “be given legal powers to enact local joined-up government, eliminating duplication and encouraging multi-agency initiatives”, and the city should have power over property taxes and local income taxes, as well as the powers to reinvest savings and proceeds locally. A new democratic system should be created that has an elected assembly member and is led by a mayor.

Blond has explained that England needs devolution because for “decades we have watched England’s cities sliding into decline".

He said: “Financial freedom must come to Greater Manchester. Its population is bigger than Northern Ireland’s. Its economy is bigger than Wales. And it has a higher growth rate than Scotland. This is why it should be able to set its own taxes. It should have an elected mayor. These plans outlined in [today’s] report, will allow it to turn its fortunes around, lifting the population out of the doldrums.”

Lord Peter Smith, the chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said he supported Devo Max – Devo Manc. “We welcome the broad thrust of this independent analysis which makes a case for total devolution to city regions on a scale that recognises the game-changing potential to both reduce public spending and boost growth," he said.

“This full devolution model echoes our ambition, and we welcome ResPublica’s view that Greater Manchester would be uniquely placed to pioneer it.”

However, local government secretary Eric Pickles said: “Localism in England should be about devolving power to the lowest appropriate level – down to councils, to neighbourhoods and to individuals. There may be some role for combined authorities on a strategic level to promote economic development and transport, but there is a real risk they will suck power upwards away from local councils and local taxpayers.”

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