Sadiq Khan and mayoral rivals join plea for devolution boost

Sadiq Khan and mayoral rivals join plea for devolution boost

Sadiq Khan and three of his principal challengers in the 2020 London Mayor election campaign have signed an open letter to all the UK’s political parties, asking them to “commit to redoubling investment and devolving powers from Whitehall” in advance of next month’s general election in order to “set cities and regions free”, including London.

Labour Mayor Khan’s rivals in the race for City Hall, Siobhan Benita (Liberal Democrat), Siân Berry (Green) and Rory Stewart (Independent) are co-signatories of the letter, which was published in by the Evening Standard yesterday, along with senior Conservative London Assembly Member Andrew Boff and representatives of business organisations, think tanks and London local government.

Calling for cities and regions to be given “more power over taxes raised locally” to “allow them to develop better, more tailored solutions to their problems”, the letter stresses that “London and the rest of the UK depend on each other for their success” and that “no one benefits from the UK’s large regional inequalities and exceptionally centralised system of government”.

It also points out “the whole of the UK gains from London’s role as one of the world’s leading cities” while stressing that the capital also has “the highest rates of household poverty in any English region and has been hit especially hard by government cuts”.

The manifestos of the UK’s main political parties have had little to say about London, which produces almost one quarter of the UK’s wealth and generated a tax surplus of £34.3 billion in the financial year 2017/18, the most recent for which figures are available, all of which was invested in other parts of the UK.

The letter’s plea is in line with the findings of the London Finance Commission, a group set up under the mayoralty of Boris Johnson and re-convened by Mayor Khan to make the case for greater “fiscal devolution” to the capital, which allowing the Mayor and London’s local authorities more control over how public money is spent in the city. Ben Rogers, director of thank tank Centre for London and a member of the commission, is the letter’s lead signatory.

Leaders of the Labour and Conservative parties have spent little or no time campaigning in the capital, believing that a group of constituencies in the North and Midlands of England are key to the outcome of the general election on 12 December. Labour in particular has appeared to denigrate London in its search for votes elsewhere, with shadow chancellor John McDonnell suggesting in a speech in Liverpool that the North is “where the investment is needed”.

The letter, complete with its full list of signatories, is here.

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