The next cohort of MPs must form a ‘‘devolution Parliament’’ after the General Election, transferring significant powers to all parts of England, a leading think-tank has claimed.
IPPR North has called for radical change to reverse what it describes as “decades of damaging centralisation”, as it urged the next government to change the way power is distributed.
It says doing so would solve some of the country’s biggest economic and social challenges after five years when local government spending has been cut by £9.5bn.
The claim comes as new figures show that in Yorkshire and the Humber, the amount of public money spent per head on services like education, health, transport and public order has fallen from £9,342 in 2014-15 to £9,123.
It means the region gets less spent on it than the England average and more than £1,000 less per head each year than in London.
The think-tank today calls for the next government to fund local government fairly by ending austerity, redistributing funding and devolving power over taxes.
It also urges the introduction of “an inclusive devolution process that lets all areas benefit” and the devolution of powers “to regions, towns and cities to create good jobs, build infrastructure and raise productivity”.
Its suggestion of a locally-led regional tier of government was criticised by a Conservative Minister who said such a move would “centralise power away from local councils”.
Arianna Giovannini, Interim Director at IPPR North, said: “In just a matter of weeks, the election will be over and a new Parliament will focus on Brexit. But to tackle the deep economic and social challenges that we face, we need more than another ‘Brexit Parliament’.
“We need a ‘Devolution Parliament’ too. The UK is uniquely and disproportionately centralised. Power hoarded in Westminster has damaged places like the North where austerity has had a disproportionate and devastating impact. But all regions have suffered – including London”.
Luke Raikes, Senior Research Fellow at IPPR North, said: “We need a Devolution Parliament, which irreversibly shifts power to the regions, towns and cities of England so they can take control of their own economies and bridge the deep divisions that centralisation has helped create”.
Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said: “Conservatives in government have done more than any other party to maximise the power of the North.
“Five years ago there was no devolution at all, now 50 per cent of the people who live in the North of England are represented by accountable metro mayors with considerable powers and money to drive jobs and growth.”
Labour’s Shadow Communities Secretary Andrew Gwynne said: “Our public services have been hit by a decade of Tory cuts to local government.”
He added: “The next Labour government will devolve decision making outside of London to each of England’s regions, with a dedicated local transformation fund for infrastructure projects decided and developed at a local level.”
Yorkshire has yet to see any meaningful transfer of powers from central government, with a devolution deal yet to be fully implemented in the region.
After rejecting a region-wide One Yorkshire deal put forward by local leaders, Ministers were in talks in the run-up to the calling of a General Election over a possible West Yorkshire deal with a metro mayor and for the Sheffield City Region deal signed in 2015 to finally be agreed.
The Conservative government has said that Yorkshire is too big and diverse to have just one region-wide mayoral authority, despite a cross-party group of council leaders saying it would boost the economy.
Labour has said publicly that it supports the idea of a One Yorkshire deal.