Britain’s seven regional and city-wide Mayors met for the first time and issue a united call for the Government to significantly increase the pace and scale of devolution in order to boost economic growth in Britain.
London hosted the first of what is planned to be a series of summits attended by all of England’s regional and city-wide Mayors on Wednesday.
The seven – four Conservative and three Labour – included Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen (above right) and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham (above left).
They jointly argued that Britain remains one of the most centralised states in the western world and that devolution is the key to unlocking future growth and improving productivity across the UK.
Cities and metropolitan regions are the main engines of economic growth and job creation in the UK.
And the seven areas under direct control of England’s regional and city-wide Mayors account for nearly 39% of all British growth (GVA), up from 35% in 1997.
The mayors called for further devolved control over public services including skills, training and apprenticeship services, as well as real influence over programmes designed to help people get back to work.
They also called for a significant increase in fiscal devolution, with regions given greater control over existing taxes and the revenues they create, rather than having to rely on Government grants. Greater fiscal devolution will give cities the tools and incentives to increase growth and job creation.
Mr Houchen and Mr Burnham were joined by London Mayor Sadiq Khan as well as Tim Bowles (West of England), James Palmer (Cambridgeshire and Peterborough), Steve Rotheram (Liverpool City Region) and Andy Street (West Midlands).
Mr Houchen, the Conservative Mayor for Tees Valley, said: “Everyone knows that the best answers for local people will come from local people.
“Our first Devolution Deal was ground-breaking, but l want to see the Government build on this ambition and go even further by handing more powers to local communities.”
Labour’s Mr Burnham said: “Through devolution we have the best chance we will ever get to do things differently and take control of our own future.
“It will be city regions working together that drive the quickest and most progressive change in the future which is why today’s meeting is so important.
“As we leave the EU it is vital that people here have the right skills to get on in life and drive our economy.
“The Government must urgently increase the speed of devolution and fully devolve skills powers and the ability to allocate the apprenticeship levy. It’s time to give us the tools we need to change the lives of the people we represent.”
Mr Khan added: “We may come from different parts of the country and represent different political parties but we all share the same belief – that the best way to secure ongoing prosperity across the country is by giving city regions more control.
“Many of the most dynamic and prosperous cities and regions in other countries have mayors with substantial powers and funding, and it is high time we followed suit.
“There is no doubt that, as regional Mayors, we are the best-placed people to deliver services to meet the specific need of local people – so we are calling on Government to speed up the devolution process and give us more ability to improve peoples’ lives.”