England is ‘crying out’ for devolution says Benn

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A LABOUR government would give councils more freedoms but austerity would continue, Hilary Benn said yesterday.

The shadow Local Government Secretary warned council leaders that he “will not have any more money to give you” if Labour wins power in May.

But he promised a better deal for councils in more deprived areas which, Labour claims, have been hit harder by cuts to funding.

“The way in which the cuts have been implemented by taking most from those who have least –the most deprived local authorities – is quite simply unfair and unjustifiable,” he said.

The Leeds Central MP said a Labour government would look to make “big reforms without big spending”.

He promised a “new deal” for England to bring it more into line with the devolution of powers and money to other parts of the UK.

Mr Benn said England is “crying out for devolution.”

“It isn’t just incomplete; it hasn’t really started,” he said.

Labour has previously promised to treble the amount of money in the Government’s Local Growth Fund and to give local areas control of their business rates revenue and award councils multi-year funding settlement.

In his speech to the Local Government Association’s annual conference, Mr Benn said a Labour government would listen to bids for further powers.

He said: “For me, this is all about encouraging the talent and the vision you can find in every community to flourish.

“Last weekend, we saw what this could achieve as Leeds, Harrogate and Sheffield – along with the glory of the Yorkshire Dales – played host to the Tour de France. We had a dream and the audacity to bid for it. And we succeeded.

“That’s what you get when you devolve power. Just imagine what more could be achieved.”

Mr Benn’s speech is the latest in a series in recent weeks from senior politicians calling for English regions to have a bigger say in their own affairs. Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched a new initiative calling for ideas to grow the North.