London’s boroughs have joined forces with local authorities of cites in all other parts of the United Kingdom to call for the “radical devolution” of powers and funds from central government as a way of equalising levels of economic growth across the country.
London Councils, the cross-party body that represents the capital’s 33 local authorities, and Core Cities UK, which speaks for ten cities in other parts of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, have made their joint request as each makes its submission on funding to the Treasury in advance of the budget on 11 March.
Claiming that giving the UK’s largest cities more autonomy will help the government achieve its professed desire to “level up” economic power across the UK, Core Cities chair Judith Blake said it should be recognised that cities and towns “are not islands, and their economies rely on each other”, while London Councils chair Peter John said it is time to “end the culture of local leaders and Mayors from all over the country being forced to go begging to Whitehall for hand-outs each year”.
Both London Councils and Core Cities UK are asking for increases in local government funding, more investment in transport infrastructure, action on climate change and a boost for housing supply along with what they call “bigger, bolder devolution” in what they describe as one of the most centralised countries in the world.
They argue that this situation continues to hamper beneficial economic growth, with Blake describing the budget as “an opportunity to exploit our economic networks” by providing “fair funding” after a decade of cuts to local government budgets, and John asserting that “local communities know how best to promote economic growth and meet the needs of communities in their areas,” adding that they need “the freedoms and powers to do so now.”
In their separate documents for the Treasury, each of the organisations seek “real fiscal devolution” to enable local authorities in their areas to raise more money for themselves locally. To this end, they are asking for reforms to business rates and council tax and for options such as tourist taxes, to be levied on hotel guests, to be considered.
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