THE case for handing more power to the regions is given a fresh boost today with a new report suggesting most people back strengthening the role of councils and have a higher degree of trust in local politicians.
Almost 40 per cent of people want more powers for local authorities compared to just 14 per cent who think they should be weakened, according to the IPPR thinktank.
Its report published today also offers new evidence that the debate over Scotland’s future in the UK is reviving concerns over where devolution for the other parts of the UK has left England.
Asked about which institution should have the biggest say in how England is run, 30 per cent said an English Parliament and 28 per cent pointed to stronger councils or regional assemblies.
The last Government attempted to introduce regional assemblies, including one for Yorkshire, but the idea was dropped after voters in the North-East comprehensively rejected the idea.
However, supporters argue those proposals were flawed and the Scottish referendum should be the trigger for a fresh debate over where power lies in the UK.
IPPR North director Ed Cox said: “Local identities are important and, alongside the rise in Englishness, we are also witnessing an even stronger attachment to local places. We now more Essex than English, Brummie than British.
“People feel more able to influence decision-making locally than they do at the national level and so giving more powers to local areas would appear to be an important way in which people can reinvigorate local democracy.
“Local attachment is felt strongest outside of London and the South East and translates into calls for more powerful local institutions.
“The UK government has now offered new powers and institutions to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London, where social and political identification have been strongest, but this should not be the end of the story.
“The Scottish referendum later in the year is already shining a light on the so called English question; central government should now listen and respond to the public appetite for more powers for the city-regions outside London.”
While the report offers hope for pro-devolution supporters it also makes clear there would be substantial challenges in persuading people to embrace the idea.
It shows that although many people may like the idea of more power in the regions they are also concerned by some of the likely consequences such as a “postcode lottery” on services.
The report suggests that the public would be unwilling to accept differences between regions in areas such as education education and social care but would be less concerned about housing, planning and public transport.
Ed Miliband last week added his voice to calls for greater devolution in England, promising a future Labour government the regions greater powers in housing, transport and skills.
And as a first step he pledged Labour would double the £2bn-a-year ‘local growth fund’ set up by the Coalition to support economic growth in the regions.
Yorkshire’s four local enterprise partnerships have submitted multi-million pound bids to the fund to support projects covering transport, skills, broadband and business support.