Campaigning for England : Your chance to make a difference
Constitution Unit Events:
Devolution in England
Monday 10 April 2017, 13:00 – 14:30 BST,
Devolution in England was given a boost by George Osborne’s support for the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and other devolution deals, whereby Councils were encouraged to come together to form combined authorities with directly elected mayors. Mayoral elections will take place in May for the new combined authorities in Greater Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, West Midlands and Tees Valley. But elsewhere, such as Norfolk and Suffolk, and Greater Lincolnshire, devolution deals have collapsed. Tony Travers will talk about the prospects for further devolution in England, in an age of greater austerity and growing uncertainty post-Brexit.
I attended the devolution in England event yesterday presented by Tony Travers of the LSE and chaired by Meg Russell. He said that ‘modest’ powers were being devolved in planning, skills, housing and transport. Well we already know both nationally and locally that whatever local authorities decide is best for the locality this can and has been= overridden by the governments presumption of the need for building. Even protected areas can no longer rely on being saved from being concreted over.
Generally he did not tell me anything I did not know but referred to the ‘randomness’ of the organisation of these agglomerations. I asked how, in view of the disparity of the responsibilities, policies and resources of these random units, cross border issues would be resolved. He said that was a good question, ie it was a problem and suggested a constitutional court would do this. I rather doubt that a constitutional court could or would be able to adjudicate on practical matters. Their expertise would be in matters of law.
another questioner noted that these mayors of city regions were being imposed undemocratically in response to government bribes. Another asked: To whom are these mayors accountable. Tony Travers replied that the question was not easily answered.
Another asked for a definition of ‘City regions’; again there was no possible answer. Indeed he wondered whether the policy was sustainable.
In truth they are a hotchpotch of incoherence or indeed a ‘witches brew’ as Will Hutton might say