Capital ‘should join North in battle for devolved powers’

LONDON and the North of England should join forces to fight for more devolved powers from Whitehall, the head of a leading think-tank has said as she called for an economic “game-changer” to kick-start growth.

Liz Meek, chair of the Centre for London think-tank and a former head of the Government Office North West, said she had seen “almost everything” tried by Governments during her long career in public service – apart from the genuine devolution of power.

Speaking at an event in the capital about the relationship between London and the North, Ms Meeks said the two areas should fight side by side to win new powers.

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“I absolutely believe that London and the North should be on the same side,” she said.

“The side should be about getting more power for both from Whitehall.

“We’ve tried almost everything in my career except serious devolution... It’s always been done from the centre... I’m just interested in what would be a game-changer, because the same is not going to work.”

The coalition has made clear it wants to see more devolution to the regions, and has handed a raft of new powers to the largest urban areas through its “City Deals”.

The Yorkshire Post is calling for further devolution as part 
of its Give us a Fair Deal campaign.

Tom Thackray of the CBI said the country has “moved quite far in the last couple of years” but remains “one of the most centralised countries in Europe”.

But he added: “If you look at the type of policies being devolved through the City Deals, we see real potential there.

“We’d like to see them extended to second-tier cities in the next six months.”

But Ed Cox, director of the IPPR North think-tank, said the deals did not go far enough.

“I very much agree there is a need for a decentralisation game-changer,” he said.

“We have fiddled with decentralisation, and sadly I think the coalition’s attempts at localism have been really quite problematic – mainly because they’ve been accompanied by significant cuts.”