Sadiq Khan ‘excited’ as Starmer pledges regional growth focus

Sadiq Khan ‘excited’ as Starmer pledges regional growth focus

Sadiq Khan has welcomed a promise by Labour leader Keir Starmer that boosting economic growth in all English regions will be “top of the agenda” for a Labour national government, saying he was “excited” that working with a Prime Minister from the same political party would present a “moment of maximum opportunity” for the capital.

Ahead a meeting convened today in Wolverhampton with Khan, 10 other Labour city region Mayors, shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner, Starmer said his party in government would rebuild Britain’s economy “hand in hand with local leaders” who were already “delivering for local people” despite a “a failing Tory government” he accused of “hoarding power in Westminster”.

Starmer picked out Khan’s community wealth building programme and a London growth plan, backed by Reeves during Khan’s successful re-election campaign, as examples of what Labour Mayors can achieve.

Responding to the summit, Paul Swinney, director of policy and research at think tank Centre for Citites, said the high profile it was given by Labour reflected “how devolution has created local political figures with greater visibility, even in a national context” than local authority leaders but added that although the event signalled that “devolution is likely to be high on the agenda for Labour” commitments about new powers over policy areas were “vague” at this stage.

Swinney also noted that the term “levelling up”, a signature term of the Conservatives since their 2019 general election win under Boris Johnson, was not used in Labour’s communications about the summit, with the term “power up” preferred.

He also warned that asking Mayors to produce local growth plans covering ten year periods risked repeating time-consuming an expensive exercises done in the recent past when “the greater challenge is access to money and powers to deliver plans, rather than the plans themselves”.

Swinney named fiscal devolution – giving regional leaders more control over how  taxes raised in their areas are spent – as “an obvious candidate” for change. Both Johnson when he was London’s Mayor and Khan have commissioned fiscal devolution proposals, centring on putting London government in charge of how property taxes raised in Greater London are spent.

Today’s development follows publication of a new report by the Institute for Government, setting out how the next government should “complete the job of English devolution”. It recommended “review and reform” of London’s devolution settlement, which was pioneering when introduced in 1999 but has since evolved to only a fairly limited degree.

“London will continue to be the biggest engine of growth for the UK, and although it outperforms other UK cities it still under-performs when compared with large capital cities in other advanced economies,” the report says. “As devolution is deepened elsewhere, London should not be left out if the capital is to fulfil its economic potential and continue to support growth in other parts of the country.”

It continued: “The next government should seek to deepen devolution to London” in the form of a bold review that “considers the case for structural reform and a new funding settlement for the capital”.

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