There was much to welcome in Miliband’s devolution announcement

Localism has to mean allowing communities to decide their own structures.

Localism has to mean allowing communities to decide their own structures

To the extent that opinion polls tell us anything, the latest IPSOS/MORI poll in Scotland tells us that our narrative around devolution needs to be credible. Conducted in the aftermath of Johann Lamont’s resignation, the poll suggests that Labour would chalk up a mere four Westminster MPs, to the SNPs fifty four.

It was against this backdrop that local and regional leaders in the rest of the United Kingdom received news of Ed Miliband’s commitment to reverse decades of centralisation, devolving powers to City and County regions, alongside a pledge that an incoming Labour government would establish an English Regional Cabinet Committee.

There was much to welcome in the speech – the ability to exercise more influence over public transport networks is long overdue, but will be of great value to local communities – ​Labour’s plan would allow combined authorities to apply a simple and swift procedure for getting greater control over local bus services – setting routes and fares, introducing smarter ticketing, and integrating those services with wider public transport and growth plans.

Even in forward-thinking authorities such as Blackpool, which retained a 100 per cent stake in Blackpool Transport Limited, this will short-circuit the current system of protracted negotiations between operators, which often achieves limited results.

Increased devolution of funding and powers in terms of skills, transport, housing and business support represents a practical adoption of many of the recommendations of the Adonis report, and demonstrates that the voices of key Leaders in Labour Local government have been heeded.

It seems churlish to point out that £30 billion represents only a fraction of those resources that could and should be delegated to communities – nonetheless, all eyes will be on other Shadow Cabinet members, in search of further announcements which buttress this commitment to real-life localism.

I don’t think anyone realistically expected an incoming Labour administration to radically alter the LEP structures, which work less well in some areas than others – there is general contentment that we appear to be placed much more firmly in charge of our own destiny – no compunction to accept elected mayors under Hilary Benn, by the sounds of things.

Localism has to mean allowing communities to decide their own structures. A change of emphasis and language from City regions to County regions is demonstrated – and again, I welcome this, but will continue to wave the wind and rain ravaged flag of the seaside (and other) unitary councils, which often get lost in the competition for parental attention between City Regions and County Councils.

Control of 100 per cent of business rate receipts is localism distilled. Socialism distilled will be coming up with a redistributive mechanism to ensure that small, poor authorities don’t lose out (Blackpool generates around £45 million a year in NNDR, but receives a redistributed sum of £66 million).

I look forward to the first meeting of the English Regional Cabinet Committee – which I am confident will have to be held in the Blackpool Tower ballroom, given the length of the list of invitees.

In summary, and in seriousness – a great start, which is welcomed by local government, and in time will be appreciated by local communities; but we need to keep that narrative fresh, ambitious and relevant – to make sure that on May 8 these are our decisions to take.

Simon Blackburn is leader of Blackpool Council

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25 Responses to “There was much to welcome in Miliband’s devolution announcement”

  1. Gary Scott

    This is purely a reaction to polling. This is the problem. Labour has gone for too long chasing votes by changing policies rather than campaigning to bring public opinion on board. This has led to the complaint that no-one knows what Labour stands for anymore. Policies aside, what DOES Labour stand for?

  2. The_Average_Joe_UK

    The perpetuation of the club, the election of red princes. Growing the state, growing the Labour vote & shiny baubels for the ‘plebs’ that elects them.

    Labour can’t come at things from what really is important perspective, much of that rails against the ideolgy that is more important. What do you mean we need rampant capitalism in the north to provide REAL long term jobs. oooh we hate capitalists.

  3. AlanGiles

    I find it hard to imagine that Miliband – still less the Progress shower who are likely to topple him – would be willing to cede control from the centre. At the moment Labour have the luxury of being able to hint, or even , promise all sorts of things which will be quietly forgotten if they win – just like the New Labour pledge to renationalise British Rail from 1995 until the day after the 1997 election.

  4. CGR

    If there is to be devolution then it must be fair and equal devolution. If devolution to Wales and Scotland is based on their nationhood, then we need devolution to England on the same basis.

  5. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Still talking in factions? progress this and centre that? The electorate have left that BS behind and rightly so.

  6. Guest

    Keep talking about yourself and how you f**** things, do try reading the post, as you call for “real” low-wage factory labour, and only that, that you talk about wasting as much care budget as possible on your profits, as you hate on the concept of educating the 99%, as you talk about your capitalist rampant attacks on wages and your love of poverty for the peons.

    F*** em, you shout, I am doing it. You and other abusers.

  7. Guest

    And now you’re calling yourself the electorate. Which is just sad.

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    That’s called “Federalisation”.

    (But do read the Acts of Union…)

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    It’s not “devoloution”, it’s tinkering.

    Main thing seems to be giving Tory regions licence to slash public transport to the bone.

  10. GhostofJimMorrison

    Your posts are becoming more rabid, incoherent and childish. One upon a time you were reasonably sensible and lucid, now you come off as a boring troll. Please, change the record or go away.

  11. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Your an idiot.

  12. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Fuck off.

  13. The_Average_Joe_UK

    You are a penis.

  14. TruthBeatsLies

    Stop using fowl language. It insults total strangers for no conceivable reason and doesn’t make any sense…!

  15. swat

    I like the sound of ‘The Federal Republic of the British Isles’, because that could include anomalies like the Channel Islisland and the Scotish Skye and Stornaway and the isle of Wight.

  16. Peter Rankin

    There may not any drastic changes to the LEPs but having heard Adonis twice in the past 2 weeks it seems he has got Ed Balls’ support for his proposal to make LEPs more transparent and democratically accountable, probably to Combined Authorities.

  17. sparky

    ‘Fowl’ language -isn’t that what chickens speak? No wonder it makes no sense.

  18. Julia

    The party offering the least is Labour. The Tories gave more powers in their submission to the Smith commission. Perhaps socialism would win back the voters.

  19. Julia

    Fair! Equal distribution!

    The Labour mayoral candidate for London suggested today on the Politics show that money raised in London by a Mansion Tax should stay in London. It is London that is destroying the UK by sucking all the money to it’s centre.

  20. Julia

    Whatever UKIP or the Tories promise – Ed will promise the same to win Middle England.

  21. Julia

    I think he has a point and probably does speak for the electorate. I know one thing – Ed doesn’t.

  22. uglyfatbloke

    Or go one better and read the Treaty of Union; the Acts really did very little other than wind up the existing English and Scottish parliaments to make way for the new British one.

  23. uglyfatbloke

    In what sense is Skye an anomaly? It’s been ‘officially’ part of Scotland for more than 700 years. Before that it was an imperial (for want of a beter word) possession of Norway. Likewise the Isle of Wight; it’s been part of England as long as there’s been an England.

  24. Leon Wolfeson

    ….They’re quite explicit on what I was talking about.

  25. Healthcliffe

    Blackpool is a prime example of a council that is struggling as a unitary authority, you should be embracing the chance to join up with a county Simon.

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