City devolution is not the right devolution model

This week we’ve seen the Chancellor pushing ahead with his idea to devolved limited powers to cities across the UK in an attempt to help what he calls the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ (coming from the north, this is not a term I am familiar with).

But I don’t understand how it can be a successful long term solution. It will just create a mess of devolved powers to some areas but not others when you consider the rules that go alongside it. You’ll have to agree to an elected mayor and large parts of the country – many smaller town and rural areas – won’t get the powers. I dread to think where we could be in 5 years if these powers start to be granted to individual cities.

We also need a serious think about what these powers will be. We currently have Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, London and the rest of England with different sets of powers to each other. This will make small parts of England have yet another different set of powers which differs from the rest of England – a right mess. The question the Government also wants to address about ‘English votes for English laws’ sounds an easy question to sort out at first, until you realise the situation we’re in mean could me any combination of MPs might be allowed to vote any issue, depending on the law. We don’t want to make that even more complex to resolve.

So things really need to change and need a big change. Politicians need to stop meddling with a small change here, a few extra powers there need serious debate and be properly thought out to give decent powers to regions right across the country. It needs to be a decision making process which includes everyone, not just the Chancellor and a few local council leaders. It is also one discussion across the country – what happens to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are not separate to what happens in England. It is exactly the same, where the exact same decisions should be made right across the country to bring consistency and simplicity.

I was pleased to hear calls today by Gareth Thomas MP that London should become a so called ‘city state’ as he announced his intention to run to be Labour candidate for London mayor. I don’t know much about the specifics of the powers he was calling for, but the general idea is the exact same thing we need for Scotland, for Yorkshire or for the other regions – powerful regions with less power held centrally in Westminster.

It’s essential if parts of the country to fulfill their potential, and not just the few areas we see now. We need more people stand out and call for this for their region and for the whole country. It doesn’t matter where we live, we need devolved power to help our regions. Yet, as no one in Westminster wants to help, we need to fight for it more than ever.

I’ve previously laid out some ideas for how region parliaments and devolved powers could work, including doing alongside merging two-tier local councils in to one, so we don’t create too many layers of government. I’m sure I’ll expand on these ideas at some point soon.

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