'End Whitehall incompetence and hand health powers to North's metro mayors'

Northern business and civic leaders are calling for greater powers over health and social care services to be handed to metro mayors as more parts of the region had lockdown restrictions imposed.

In a report published by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, voices from across the North say Whitehall incompetence and a centralised response to the coronavirus pandemic has failed, leaving communities across the North in chaos.

The paper argues progress on devolution has largely “stalled” since 2016 due to “mis-steps by former Prime Minister Theresa May”, adding that a radical shift in mindset is needed if real ‘levelling-up’ is to be achieved.

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Devolution campaigners believe affording Metro Mayors more powers will mean money is spent by people with local knowledge, minimising mis-spent funds and finding more

effective solutions to causes of the productivity crisis, like the education disadvantage gap.

The West Yorkshire devolution deal agreed in March - the biggest ever of its kind - is expected to unlock £1.8 billion in investment for the area and see the election of a new

metro mayor next year.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The report’s chief priority is a call for greater powers over health, arguing that the Greater Manchester health devolution deal has shown that the health service is better run through partnerships with local authorities, rather than centralised bureaucracies.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “The mess made by Whitehall’s blunders over the past few months, not least the failures by Public Health

England, means Ministers must see there’s never been a stronger case for devolution.

“Decades of Westminster centric decision-making and chronic under-funding for areas outside London and the South East has left the UK as one of the most centralised and

imbalanced countries in Europe.

“If we are going to properly address existing regional disparities, Northern leaders and their electorate need a bigger say in how money is spent and how their communities are run."

Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said: "The time has come for more devolution across the North to unlock our economy.

"As Chair of the Combined Authority I negotiated a deal with my colleagues which I know will greatly benefit our communities, but by far the lion;s share of the skills budget is still held centrally in Westminster.”

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: “This Government were elected on a manifesto commitment of levelling up.

"It’s now time that they deliver and give Mayors and leaders across the North of England, the powers and resources to not only build back better from the Coronavirus Pandemic, but to develop a stronger, greener and fairer economy and society."