‘Time for devolution is now’ say Yorkshire leaders

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PUBLIC and private sector leaders in a Yorkshire city are calling for the devolution of decision-making and tax-raising powers to councils in the North to re-balance the economy.

But lobby group Bradford Breakthrough has come out against the creation of further tiers of government in favour of handing greater powers to existing councils in Yorkshire.

Colin Philpott, chief executive of Bradford Breakthrough, said: “Our members believe that there is now a real opportunity to seize the moment and move real power from central government to communities across the country.

“This can end the ‘hand-out culture’ where local councils and others go cap in hand to Whitehall to ask for money. Instead, local areas can take responsibility for decision-making, including financial responsibility, for spending on a wide range of issues. This would mean tax-raising powers for local councils and for groups of local authorities with accountability to local voters.”

The group said the creation of an English Parliament was not likely to benefit the North or other regions away from the South East.

Mr Philpott added: “Devolving power from one group of MPs to another in Westminster is a sideshow - what is needed is real devolution across England alongside greater powers for Scotland and Wales. This can enable faster progress on economic growth, skills development and infrastructure.”

In Leeds, where the council is facing £70m cuts over the next two years, council leader Keith Wakefield said “the time for devolution is now”, adding: “Currently around 95 per cent of decisions about public spending in Leeds are made by people in Whitehall who have little or no knowledge or understanding of this city and what we need. If national politicians really want to unlock the potential of the north as they say they do then they must act now to release these financial shackles.

“When a system becomes broken and outdated it needs to be changed, so something new is needed and that must be greater fiscal control and decision-making over resources and services by councils and city regions...as soon as possible.”