Nick Clegg: Now is the time to shift power to the regions

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IF ever there was a time to push for action on decentralisation, it’s now.

You only need look at how the Scottish Referendum debate has re-energised people’s interest and engagement in politics over the last few weeks to see that this is an idea whose time has come.

Over the last decades, we’ve seen a wave of new powers shifting out to every nation of the UK, except England.

With successive Governments, from both the left and right, 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.

We’ve passed the Localism Act giving more legal powers to local people, communities and councils to help them do what they think is best for their local areas. We’ve localised business rates, enabling communities to benefit more as their local economy grows. Our Tax Increment Financing Reforms give every Local Authority the opportunity to borrow funds for vital local infrastructure projects against future business rates.

And back in the summer, I announced the first of our new Growth Deals. These innovative deals extend the powers that we’ve already given to our cities’ leaders more widely, with access to a £12 billion pot of funding in the coming years.

With a new consensus now emerging amongst the UK’s three main political parties to extend devolution and decentralisation in the future, I believe we can push forward in realising our ambitions for a stronger, fairer Britain.

The reality is that our great cities like Sheffield, Newcastle, Glasgow and Leeds aren’t just competing with each other for investment. They’ve also got to stand up against other global cities Frankfurt, Sao Paulo, Madrid and Shanghai.

We need to think about how we can exploit the greater local powers we’ve created to accelerate economic growth across the North. That’s why I’ve launched our new Northern Futures Project.

This is an open call to local leaders, businesses and experts in housing, transport, planning, science and education across the North of England to answer the fundamental question: How do we build on the strengths in the North to create an economic core in the heart of the region that can compete with the biggest cities and regions in the world?

All of us have ideas and I want to ensure that Government can capture and develop them.

• Nick Clegg is the Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats. The Sheffield Hallam MP is delivering a speech today to the IPPR North think-tank on the future of English devolution in the wake of the referendum on Scottish independence