October 23, 2014

SAVING THE UK WILL ONLY COST THEM ENGLAND:

The case for Northern devolution (PAUL SALVESON, 22 October 2014, OpenDemocracy)


It's widely recognised that England is a highly centralised nation with power and resources increasingly concentrated on London and the south-east. The historic 'north-south' divide is getting bigger and virtually every index of deprivation shows the North (Yorkshire and the Humber; North-West and North-East) becoming poorer in comparison to the South-East. The Scottish referendum campaign has forced the political establishment to accept further devolution for Scotland and the 'English Question' - how to re-balance England itself so London and the South-east becomes less dominant - has shot up the agenda. The response from the political establishment has been to avoid creating any new directly-elected bodies but instead to devolve some powers and resources to 'combined authorities' in Northern city regions. Some of these already exist, for example in Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. They bring together the local authorities in their respective areas, with the council leaders forming a leadership group. They have growing budgets covering a range of sectors, including transport and economic development. While it could be argued these are a pragmatic response to existing needs, their big problem is the lack of accountability. Indirectly-elected bodies such as these give greater powers to officers and effectively remove any semblance of popular participation. Further, almost by definition, 'city regions' have an excessive focus on the main city conurbations and less emphasis on the more peripheral urban centres and rural areas.

The alternative is 'democratic devolution' to the regions, with elected assemblies having similar powers to Wales and Scotland. They should be elected by PR to allow a better balance between town, city and rural hinterland. It has been suggested that this merely creates 'another tier of bureaucracy' but surely regionalisation should be an opportunity to radically reduce the size of the central civil service, with fewer MPs at Westminster. Further, it should involve a fundamental re-organisation of the dogs' dinner that is English local government, with smaller and more accountable local authorities which reflect people's local identities.

Posted by at October 23, 2014 6:10 PM
  

blog comments powered by Disqus
« WAS ANYONE MORE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DAMAGE KATRINA DID...: | Main | THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS QUALITY: »