Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, has confirmed that Labour will call for greater devolution in regional areas if successful in the May election.
Labour’s plans were originally revealed in October 2014, but the £30 billion economic devolution plan to local regions and local cities such as Birmingham is now becoming a major focus for all the main political parties.
Balls confirmed at the Labour English Regional Shadow Cabinet, that £30 billion of funding will be given to local regions for education, health, employment, businesses, transport and even housing. Balls also confirmed that the economic devolution would allow for local cities to benefit from being able to ‘retain any extra business rates’ that will in effect be created by economic growth in the city or region. The economic devolution proposed by the Labour party adds its economic agenda, including that of eliminating the £86 billion national budget deficit by 2020.
Under Labour plans, local councils who wish to not have a democratically elected mayor will not be forced to have one.By comparison, current Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne confirmed in November that a Boris-Johnson-style regional or city mayor would be an option for cities outside of London under Conservative administration. Osborne argues that the local regions deserve to have economic and political control over what happens in their own city or area, hence Conservative plans for Birmingham to join forces with other local councils such as the Black Country and Solihull to become Greater Birmingham. This plan bears similarity to the increase of economic and political powers promised to the city of Manchester, after confirmation in November that it is to receive an elected mayor.
The Lib Dems are focusing more on the ‘home rule’ devolution to Scotland since the 2014 Scotland independence referendum. The party also supports greater powers for Wales and Northern Ireland. In November last year, the Lib Dems introduced the idea of ‘decentralisation on demand’, and have long been advocates of ‘the decentralisation of powers away from Whitehall’.