Miliband’s English devolution law

ED MILIBAND will today promise to enshrine in law a new era of devolved powers for cities and regions.

Labour leader Ed Miliband with Ed balls

The Labour leader will commit to introducing a Devolution Act if Labour win the 2015 General Election, binding the party to its earlier promise to hand over £30 billion-worth of funding over five years.

In a speech in Manchester today Mr Miliband will also say handing over London-style bus powers to local councils will be a key plank of the party’s devolution offer.

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Councils would return to the days of setting fares and routes, though private operators would still run buses.

Alongside the new powers is a commitment from Mr Miliband to holding English-only Cabinets outside of London in which the Prime Minister and relevant secretaries of state would meet with city leaders to go over what needs force further changes from Whitehall.

A shadow version of this committee will meet in Manchester today.

Those attending will include Mr Miliband, Jon Cruddas, Hilary Benn, and Mary Creagh, as well as the leaders of core cities in England, the chairs of the existing combined authorities, and representatives from the Local government Association and English counties.

The first full meeting to be held in January will include a report from shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, on how this devolution will be mainstreamed into the first Spending Review of the Labour Government.

The English cabinets devolution offer is unlikely to satisfy Conservative demands for English only votes on English Laws, set to be a key plank of their election campaign as a result of increased powers to Scotland.

All three parties will now go into the General Election with competing devolution offers.

Mr Miliband will today say: “For too long powers to regulate and integrate bus services have been enjoyed only by London.

“For too long, the other regions of England have been unable to plan ahead or join up their transport networks to help secure the prosperity they need.

“For too long everyday working people have found their journey to work made harder and more expensive than it needs to be by a deregulated system that fails to serve the public interest.

“And for too long this issue has been ignored by Westminster: prosperity in one party of the country; power devolved in one part of the country; services not run for the public interest everywhere else. That stops today.

“The next Labour government will hand regions that want it the power to regulate their bus services so that local people and local businesses get the public transport system they need to succeed.

“Labour will legislate so that city and county regions can set fares, decide routes, and integrate bus services with trams, trains and the wider public transport network.”

He will add: “Our plan will enable every region that comes together as a Combined Authorities like they have here in Greater Manchester to have extra powers and move to electing a leader if they wish.

“It will devolve funding equivalent to £30 billion over five years in areas like transport and housing infrastructure, business support, skills, and employment.

“And it will reverse a century of centralisation so that every region of England can benefit from the local planning and support the last Labour government delivered for Scotland and Wales.”