Devolution on agenda of new drive to change Government

The GovernUp project will look at ways of shifting power to cities such as Leeds
The GovernUp project will look at ways of shifting power to cities such as Leeds
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FInding ways of shifting power from London to the regions is one of the goals of a new initiative led by South Yorkshire MP John Healey.

Making sure politicians have the right skills, improving the way Government departments work and making better use of technology will also be tackled by the GovernUp project.

Mr Healey, the Labour MP for Wentworth and Dearne and former Housing Minister, is leading the initiative with fellow former Minister and Tory MP Nick Herbert with a panel of experts including Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan.

They hope to convince the major parties to include their ideas in their manifestos for the next General Election.

Mr Healey said: “Our system of Government was designed in the 1850s so the way civil servants and Ministers work together is more than 150 years old.

“When financial pressures are tight and when there is rising demand for services and increasing expectations from the public we have simply got to re-think some of the ways government works to make sure it is more effective and more efficient.

“Having spent nine years as a Minister I saw the very best and some of the worst of the civil service and I also know when I was best as a Minister and when I was at my worst.

“I think there is a unique opportunity now to build a cross-party consensus for some of the changes that are required because for the first time since the Second World War we have all three major parties with very recent experience of Government.”

The project will look at whether the conclusion of the Scottish referendum debate will offer an opportunity to look again at where decisions are taken across the country.

Mr Riordan, a former chief executive of regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, has long called for more decisions to be taken closer to where they have an impact.

He said: “This is quite a high-powered and cross-party initiative that I think has the chance to have quite an influence on the manifestos of all the parties and that’s why it is important myself and Leeds are involved.

“The outcome we are looking for is a change to the relationship between Whitehall and Leeds which is pretty unsustainable and needs to be changed.

“I see this has a chance to make that case and to free us up to do the things we can do rather than relying on someone sitting in an office in Whitehall.”

Other members of the GovernUp panel include former BBC director-general and adviser to Tony Blair Lord Birt and the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge.