Bigger say for region’s cities in Lib Dem manifesto

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NICK Clegg has said the Liberal Democrats will go into the next General Election promising Yorkshire’s cities a bigger say over their future.

The Deputy Prime Minister launched the party’s pre-manifesto list of would-be policies with a promise to continue rolling out “Devolution on demand” for councils or groups of local authorities looking to work together.

Mr Clegg offered few specifics on which responsibilities and cash rasing powers could be handed back to local councils, but made clear transport would be a big issue.

Asked if he thought it was right that the North was likely to continue having to commute on outdated diesel pacer trains, Mr Clegg said the situation in Yorkshire would be “wholly unacceptable anywhere else in the country”.

He added: “My own view is we have to do something even bigger here and I hope to make some announcements on this later in the year, to devolve powers on transport planning.”

Speaking at a launch event ahead of the party’s annual conference next month, Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems would be focusing on families and young people.

Proposals which could be the basis of future coalition negotiations include a promise to provide people aged 16 to 21 a travel pass giving them a 66 per cent discount on bus travel in England.

The move forms part of a targeted group of policies in a “manifesto for the next generation” aimed at improving the lives of youngsters – a group of voters who have deserted the Lib Dems following the U-turn over tuition fees.

Mr Clegg said: “We take this manifesto process seriously, and we totally accept – I totally accept – the need to show that what we say is credible and deliverable.

“We’ve learnt our lesson from tuition fees – and we’ve learnt it the hard way. There will be no repeat of that mistake.”

The party said it planned to finance the young person’s bus pass move by scrapping free TV licences and winter fuel payments for pensioners who qualify as higher rate taxpayers, although their bus passes would escape the axe.

Other policies included a guarantee to extend the 15 hours a week of free childcare, and changing the law so those found in possession of drugs for personal use do not face prison.