Devolution debate: Chamber speaks out

Bradford Chamber contributed to the ongoing debate on devolution today (Fri 31 Jul), with comments provided to the Telegraph & Argus.

The T&A has just completed a five-day series of articles on how or whether devolution would help the local economy. Today’s newspaper quotes President Andy Caton as saying that any powers granted to raise and retain taxes locally needs to be applied responsibly.

Previously, in Chamber Council meetings, local firms welcomed the government promise of devolving powers and responsibilities to the regions, although the idea of elected mayors remains a moot point.  Some business leaders have said they would accept such a proposal so long as bureaucracy does not increase and that the figurehead does not come from the ‘usual suspects’ of politicians.

Here is what Andy Caton told the T&A earlier today:

“For devolution to work in Bradford, certain principles are necessary: the purpose of devolved powers and funding flexibility should be to drive growth by empowering local economies to become more efficient and effective.  Democratic accountability is also important – and this will be one of the sticking points over elected mayors and their geographical jurisdiction, not to mention the associated bureaucracy.  Then there’s fiscal autonomy: fiscal devolution and spending decentralisation are not synonymous. Relaxing government control over spending programmes (e.g. City Deal) is not fiscal devolution – this is decentralisation of spending. Proper devolution involves cities like Bradford having local tax and borrowing powers in order to stimulate investment.  However, that power needs to be wielded responsibly to avoid scaring the horses, so to speak!

“The specific areas for devolving should cover transport and infrastructure, skills, regeneration and economic development (inc. business support).  Other areas for achieving economic growth include housing and planning.  Working with other northern cities to challenge the dominance of London could possibly bring about the Northern Powerhouse concept, but at present, it still needs driving.  Connectivity could assist collaboration, and enhance economic output, and so make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.”

Councils in Yorkshire have submitted a series of ‘asks’ in association with the on-going dialogue on devolution – visit the West & North Yorkshire Chamber website here to see the 27-point list.

Written on 31st July 2015Mike Cartwright. Published in Current Issues, Lobbying, News, Press Log