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'Devo Manc' - a Northern Powerhouse

Posted by
02 Mar 2015
George Osbourne made a historic decision last week. The MP for Tatton in Cheshire has agreed to give the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester power over £6 billion of tax payer’s money. This decision means that rather than Westminster being the catalyst and driving force behind the direction of where the public money is spent it will be made at a local level in Manchester - this is seen as a fundamental ‘sea change’.

Most surprisingly is the lack of counter attack from the opposition. When you have arch enemies like John Prescott and Jack Dromey trying to understand and gauge the policy you’ve probably hit on something. Andy Burnham, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, could only muster that he was concerned about a “two tier NHS” resulting from tax payers money being spent at a very local level. Your opposition’s tacit approval speaks volumes.

This is an argument of subsidiarity – “the principle that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a local level”. For years all I’ve been hearing form the main political parties is that the ‘utopian’ ideal or ‘nirvana’ is that key services should be delivered at a local level, whether it be NHS; mental health; acute or social services. In short, a joined up policy with all the major decision makers on board and involved in key policy making at a local level.

The timing of this now is key here. This has sprung from the fallout of the Scottish Referendum with English MP’s clambering for a programme of devolution, which mirrors all the tax and spend initiatives that Edinburgh has been handed since Cameron, Milliband and Clegg got the “red eye” from Kings Cross to save the No campaign?

There’s also a question of whether another referendum in Scotland is likely to take place sooner than we were promised, possibly within the next five years. Many Scots have been dissatisfied by promises which weren’t kept by Westminster and the fallout for Labour in Scotland could be substantial come May with the Scottish National Party looking likely to sweep a large majority of seats.

This dissatisfaction has been mirrored across England and Wales, and post-referendum the media seem happy to give towns outside of the South East a voice. There seems to be a general feeling that Westminster and its ‘public school parliament’ are completely out of touch from the rest of the UK, perhaps it is the case that local authorities are better placed to determine how local funding should be spent.

Politics in the UK is fascinating with ‘cards and angles’ being deployed literally every day to secure the media agenda and drive momentum towards the election. But I have no doubt that surely local authorities like Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle will be determined to replicate ‘Devo Manc’.

What do you think about this? Are there concerns for the NHS and other public services? Let me know your thoughts.
Tagged In: Northern Powerhouse
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