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Devo-Max For A Tax-Raising Manchester?

Scottish debate makes case for Manchester to have its own tax raising powers

Published on September 16th 2014.


Devo-Max For A Tax-Raising Manchester?
 

THE CASE for more devolved power to the English cities and regions is gathering momentum.

The extra powers all main Westminster parties have promised to Holyrood should Scotland vote 'no' have let the cat out of the bag.

There's all the Scottish debate going on, the to-ing and fro-ing of 'Oh yes we can' and 'Oh no we can't' with queues of business leaders saying independence will be 'catastrophic' while mobs of yes-ers outside BBC Scotland wave their fists and moan about BBC bias.

Down here in Merry England the fuss over the border has led to chatter and gossip about devolution for the English regions and cities.

Of course Manchester is at the centre of much of this. 

As the second city of national attention rather than the second city of population (Birmingham) we have become accustomed to it, but recent weeks have seen the voices getting louder.

Naturally Manchester

 

Naturally Manchester

We've had the debate about HS3 as well as HS2 with George Osborne, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg all competing to say something significant on how railways should up their game in the north of England with improvements centred on Manchester.

Glasgow has weighed in saying it has more in common with Northern English cities such as Manchester than it does with Inverness and Galashiels. Along with the English cities it thinks it should be given extra powers to reflect its regional significance.

Closer to home Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council underlined the point in June: "You only have to look at the success a city like Barcelona has achieved by being given freedom to make decisions based on local need and circumstance. Cities need to be given the powers to compete or we will fall behind.” 

But why Manchester? 

Well, it has to help that George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is a Tory MP in nearby Tatton and likes the city. It might even help that the city has successfully held political conference after political conference, and political bigwigs have experienced how things have changed.

More importantly, of course, Manchester's stewardship of its redevelopment (not without controversy), its airport and the strength of its higher education and business sectors at the centre of a substantial regional population underlines its readiness for greater self-governance.

Greater Manchester's ten authorities have also demonstrated a real commitment to work together as a Combined Authority which 'co-ordinates key economic development, regeneration and transport functions'. Petty jealousies seem to have lessened.

Manchester Town Hall

 

Manchester Town Hall

But as stated above we have to be grateful to the Scottish Referendum for driving this.

The extra powers all the main Westminster parties have promised to Holyrood should Scotland vote 'no' have let the cat out of the bag. The level of self-governance on offer would be inequitable in one region without some form of reciprocation in others.

After 18 September it's impossible for UK governments to turn back from the course of allowing 'decisions based on local need and circumstance', to quote Leese, to flow out across the country.

Happily for the English regions it'll be very hard to do so given party promises to Scotland in recent weeks even if the latter votes 'Yes'. 

Now the very credible non-party aligned think tank ResPublica has joined in the debate, focussed on Manchester, and gone much further.

It thinks Manchester is the natural place to pioneer devo-max for British cities. 

Hot summer Manchester

 

Hot summer Manchester

Here's the ResPublica press release:

'A radical plan enabling Greater Manchester to set its own income tax in five years and elect its own independent Mayor is proposed.

'ResPublica says Greater Manchester should be the first fully devolved City in England with full control over all the public spending in its area.

'In one of the most comprehensive reports to date (Res Republica's) Philip Blond says devolution can lead to economic growth. In short he wants Greater Manchester to have everything Scotland wants. And he says this should be the blueprint for other cities in England.

'The report Devo Max – Devo Manc: Place-based public services recommends:  

'Total Manchester public spending should be brought under the control of GM Combined Authority, under a new governance structure and accountability.

'The Authority should be given legal powers to enact local joined-up Government, eliminating duplication and encouraging multi-agency initiatives.

'Government should begin by giving Manchester power over property taxes, and move on to local income taxes.

'Powers to reinvest savings and proceeds should be managed locally, while a percentage of overheads remains with Whitehall, the rest should be devolved.

'Create a new democratic system with an elected Assembly led by the Mayor of Manchester.

'For decades we’ve watched England’s cities sliding into decline. This is why England needs devolution. Financial freedom must come to Greater Manchester. Its population is bigger than Northern Ireland’s. Its economy is bigger than Wales. And it has a higher growth rate than Scotland. This is why it should be able to set its own taxes. It should have an elected Mayor. These plans outlined in today’s report, will allow it to turn its fortunes around, lifting the population out of the doldrums. This is a blueprint for independence for cities in England.

Supporting the report Lord Peter Smith, Chair of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said:

“We welcome the broad thrust of this independent analysis which makes a case for total devolution to city regions on a scale that recognises the game-changing potential to both reduce public spending and boost growth. This full devolution model echoes our ambition, and we welcome ResPublica’s view that Greater Manchester would be uniquely placed to pioneer it.”

Dawn over the city

Dawn over the city 

During its 1800s heyday Manchester was virtually a city-state and saw itself that way. By 1900, it controlled all aspects of governance; education, police, gas, water, transport, parks and much else.

Of course even with the new mood we can't expect a return to that expansionist moment but a step backwards in that direction should certainly mean a leap forwards in efficient governance and a fairer society with 'decisions based on local need and circumstance'. 

It should also lead to greater civic identity, to a boost in pride. Westminister needs to let go. Scotland looks set to ensure it does.

Maybe ResPublica's devo-max solution might cut too deep for politicians but certainly greater power is heading up the M6 soon.  

We just have to wait and see how much.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

Manchester Day celebrations

Manchester Day celebrations

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56 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Poster BoySeptember 16th 2014.

Greater Manchester Council anyone...?

AnonymousSeptember 16th 2014.

Until we have an effective opposition tax raising powers shouldn't be given to Manchester.

DavidSeptember 16th 2014.

You mention George Osbourne love for Manchester and Michael Heseltine seemed very keen on Liverppol,yet strangely no top Labour politician seems to have the same love for Manchester.You could not imagine Blair or Brown going out of there way to express their admiration for the city and yet Manchester seems to represent everything they claim to like. Personally I would love Devo Max to happen.My only point is be careful confusing Manchester with Greater Manchester.This is not about devolving power to the city of Manchester to run Greater Manchester.Any elected Mayor would need the votes of people in Bolton,Bury etc and that means there would also have to be greater attention paid to their needs than is at present.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
Obollox The GaulSeptember 16th 2014.

David, have you ever thought about paying a programmer to write you a simple app that will automatically produce (and post) your comments for you? You're so bloody formulaic that no-one would be able to tell the difference, and you could put your feet up, or shout at some kids outside your house, or whatever it is you like to do in your free time when you're not being boring on Man Con. Just a helpful suggestion!

AnonymousSeptember 16th 2014.

+ 1,000,000

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

Obollox The Git offering nothing to the debate, yet again. Nobody is more predictably boring on Man Con than you buddy, well, except for Gimboid I suppose. Always appreciate your posts David.

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

Fuck. For once I agree with David. #seekshelp

Ghostly TomSeptember 16th 2014.

I like the idea but before it gets implemented there needs to be proper democracy in the city with carefully watched accountable politicians. We can't have a situation where 21% of the electorate gains you 100% of the seats on the council like we have in the City of Manchester at the moment.

8 Responses: Reply To This...
Poster BoySeptember 16th 2014.

+1

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

+2

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

+3

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

Ghostly Tom and Poster Boy fancy starting our own Manchester specific political party?....The Tories and Lib Dems are dead here. A sensible alternative incorporating good ideas from across the spectrum with no need or desire to suck up to Leese. Just a thought.

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

+4

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

+5

Ghostly TomSeptember 18th 2014.

The Tories and and Lib Dems aren't dead in the city, neither are the Greens, the people who voted for them just had their votes nullified by the undemocratic way we choose our politicians. Labour have 100% of the power and could have done something about it but they seem quite happy to hang on to all the power. I firmly believe that the council should reflect how the city votes. If it did I'm sure more people would vote as they could see their vote mattered and they would feel their political leanings were represented on the council.

Ghostly TomSeptember 18th 2014.

Thanks for the offer of starting a political party. I'm passionate about Manchester and very interested in politics but if I was ever to get any sort of political power I would be spending most of my time in a state of apocalyptic anger banging the heads of the stupid together.

DavidSeptember 17th 2014.

Manchester failed to become the City of Football.As it lost to Nottingham.Why is this not being reported on this website?.It seems a longtime since Manchester won anything and the Labour council refuses to even bid to be European City of Culture.There needs to be a higher quality of person at the top of Manchester council,capable of representing the city and not Leese.

8 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

Oooo David....sometimes you do give me headache. Manchester does not need that investment in football with City and United in town. Nottingham has some of the most impoverished areas of the country plus it's the closest city to St Georges Park in Burton (I don't count Derby as a city). City of Culture status is again awarded to those cities in need of investment. That's why Liverpool won out over Bristol and I believe the next one is Hull.....who da f**k wants to go to Hull.....unless it's city of culture of course. Stop trying to fight every battle and creating battles that don't exist. We get it, you don't like Leese, you don't like the Labour domination of both the constituency and the city council, you don't like the electoral system and you're frustrated at what you perceive as the population of Manchester sleepwalking into a Labour apocalypse. Just a tip though, try being a bit more selective and considered with your comments. Try being a bit more like Ghostly Tom or Poster Boy. You'll get a lot further.

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

City of football is hardly something we should cry about missing out on is it.

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

ManCon readers go to Restaurants and Burger Bars and not to football (which already has a museum opened for it when it finally in moved to Europe.

DavidSeptember 17th 2014.

I think you will find Manchester can outbid Nottingham on impoverished areas.Its hardly Barcelona or Lyon either thanks to the lack of ambition of its leaders.

rinkydinkSeptember 17th 2014.

Manchester is the city of football, whatever anyone else says. It doesn't need a made-up official title. If the loss of this official title hasn't been reported on this website it is probably because no-one cares. And what has this got to do with this story anyway?

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

Missing the point entirely as usual David. The City of Football bollocks - organising a stupid competition for a one-off injection of an incredibly small amount of funding(£1.2m) was nothing but a welfare scheme for civil servants. This is a great example of the way in which the machinery of over centralised government works against sustainable and meaningful improvements - throw them crumbs as apRt of some half- backed scheme, and generate maximum publicity by organising a competition between different towns and cities, all competing like rats in a barrel. But as long as gullible morons like David latch onto them, using them to make party political points the whole time, we stand little chance of achieving any meaningful devolution.

DavidSeptember 17th 2014.

If it was entirely pointless why was Manchester bidding for it?.

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

Why wouldn't they bid for it? Missing the point as usual David.

Peter CoppingSeptember 17th 2014.

What Respublica proposes is the rolling all Manchester Local Government into one authority with a 'Boris' presumably based on the Combined GM Authority, maybe joined by East Cheshire and 'South Lanc's (but not by Liverpool) But we have an unelected Authority anyway and some would say it has a unelected mayor already. But it still trying to get going (and can't even send me the paper of Alcohol Policy.) It has nothing to do with Manchester City Council which would of course be abolished.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidSeptember 17th 2014.

There is one problem with the proposals what is in it for the likes of Leese and Cliff Morris Bolton council leader?.Devo Max may be great for the region but it would be a death sentence for the current mediocre Labour council leaders.There would be little use for them with a Boris Johnson style figure as Mayor of Greater Manchester.For that reason I don't expect them to be backing it.

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

But they are backing it you fool.

DavidSeptember 17th 2014.

They back devolution just as long as they think it benefits them,hence their own proposals for it.But if devolution means their jobs disappear then I think they will not.As there is no way the likes of Leese could be Mayor of Greater Manchester.That job will attract a much higher quality candidate than him.

AnonymousSeptember 17th 2014.

Wouldn't this be an appropriate point to insert your copy-and-paste rant about Bob Scott and Graham Stringer, David? Come on, you're slacking.

Poster BoySeptember 17th 2014.

Wrong -and JS is being disingenuous with the truth. The ‘very credible’ and ‘non-partisan’ Respublica to who JS refers is a private consultancy company who have been paid by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (the ten local authorities in Greater Manchester) to provide a road map for it, in order to gain control from central government of public sector spending and the provision of services in the area. They think Manchester is the ‘natural place’ to pioneer devo max because they have been paid to undertake a study if it! A turkey does not vote for Christmas. The Respublica plan does not propose devolution of tax powers. Neither does it propose a Mayor, but instead a further layer of bureaucracy in the form of a paid Management Board which allows the ten councils to retain control (as opposed to losing control to an additional elected level like the former Greater Manchester Council). There is no reference to the reform of local democracy or any proposals to re-engage the electorate, or make politics more representative of votes cast. The political status quo is retained. Neat (sic). You always get what you pay for…

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Olly BeatSeptember 18th 2014.

Steve, that's the most sensible statement after all the earlier banter!

Barry MaginnSeptember 19th 2014.

Good points poster boy. It is a case of paying to give the answer the paymasters want to hear. But they aren't a private consultancy - rather a charity. This is the scary thing about think tanks - they hide behind a vail of independence. The report will have been 'sponsored' rather than 'commissioned'. The real disingenuousness is around calling them 'very influential' and 'non-party aligned'. They are Tory through and through and fortunately aren't taken very seriously due to their director calling for the end of social mobility, among other madness.

Steven AshleySeptember 17th 2014.

They already have ample tax levying powers, ie street parking fines, council tax etc. Soon 100% of a persons earnings will be payable in taxation of one crafty type or another.

Kevin PeelSeptember 18th 2014.

I've long supported meaningful devolution for Greater Manchester and other city regions. I also think we need to look at more powers for county councils and other areas which don't fall under that heading and to consider regional governance structures on bigger issues such as transport. The time is now for a directly elected mayor for Greater Manchester with real power and more money from Central government. But power should always be devolved to the lowest possible level, so devolution shouldn't just mean power for a mayor, it should also mean more power for local councils, councillors and communities in areas such as planning and licensing for example.

19 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

What we need first is real democracy - as outlined in Ghostly Tom's excellent post above.

MGSSeptember 18th 2014.

What you've got here anon is a classic case of chicken vs. egg. People will engage when power is offered/devolved. Look at Scotland. We can't sit around waiting for people to magically get involved...there's such low involvement because of the huge disconnect!!

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

Because of the potentially huge amounts of money that might be devolved to Manchester, the local politicians will have to up their game and embrace real democracy. The ones who run the city of Manchester don't have a democratic mandate to buy a box of paperclips at the moment let alone spend the money on infrastructure projects liked London's Crossrail to take the region into the future.

DavidSeptember 18th 2014.

If the mayor of Greater Manchester has major powers,then it would be the fourth most prestigious job in English politics after PM,Chancellor and Mayor of London and would therefore attract the big hitters.People like George Osbourne,Jim O'Neill would be realistic candidates.It would also be a springboard like with Boris Johnson to bidding to be party leader and PM.For that reason they would be a lot more motivated to get results and improve the city,rather than constantly put party before city as Leese has done for twenty years.

DavidSeptember 18th 2014.

Kevin Peel if you believe passionately in devolving power to the lowest possible level,can you give some examples of how Manchester Council has devolved power?.

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

George Osborne a big hitter? Given the dire performance of the economy over the past few years the man is incompetent and a charlatan. And vastly over promoted. Great at the dark arts of political spin through (anyone see him rowing back furiously from his HS3 'pledge' when pushed on BBC Breakfast recently, surely the quickest U-turn in political history!). Only the daft and the gullible actually rate him.

DavidSeptember 18th 2014.

The highest growth rate of any major western nations,rapidly falling unemployment to2.2 million suggests otherwise and certainly in contrast to the 3.4 million unemployed and zero growth in Socialist France. Yes he is a big hitter as he is chancellor.Leese doesn't even have the talent or ambition even to be a MP in contrast.

Barry MaginnSeptember 18th 2014.

I don't know if unemployment rates mean that much anymore as we're fast becoming an economy of zero hour workers and people forced into non-sustainable self-employment status. 2/5s of all new jobs created have been self-employed, a fact which the Bank of England's interest rate-setting committee has publically said points towards a weakness in the labour market.

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

And funny enough official statistics on average incomes ignore self-employed workers

DavidSeptember 18th 2014.

If you reduced to arguing that they are 'the wrong sort of jobs' you really are desperate.If you then claim unemployment figures don't matter anymore you have really lost the plot.The 13% popularity rating of Hollande,the lowest ever for a French President,is directly related to his promise that he was going to bring down unemployment.Its now 1.2 million more than the UK.France was not going to have austerity either he claimed.Thats what you get when you get the socialism,Miliband was so keen to be associated with when Hollande was elected.

Barry MaginnSeptember 18th 2014.

That isn't quite true. Unemployment figures can easily be manipulated by how people are classified (ie moving them across to long-term sick etc), so it is legitimate to be sceptical. Political parties often accuse each other of doing this, so why shouldn't we questions it. And is the Bank of England interest rate committee 'desperate? Also, of course there are 'the wrong sorts of jobs'. Just go and ask the thousands of people on zero hour contracts who are completely unsure if they'll even get enough hours to pay the rent from week to week. When you are too close-minded to even question the official line by actually researching the underlying realities - that's when you've lost the plot.

Barry MaginnSeptember 18th 2014.

The low popularity of Hollande is for a lot of reasons. Unemployment is merely a symptom of his issues.

DavidSeptember 18th 2014.

If unemployment figures can be easily manipulated Barry then Hollande clearly has not noticed it.Months and months of rising unemployment in France,in contrast to UK where it's been the opposite.

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

France's economy has OUTPERFORMED that of the UK, growing faster and emerging from the recession sooner. Osborne is an incompetent snake oil salesman and you are a fool David. But aren't we getting off the subject here? Devolution for city-regions not silly Westminster party politics?

AnonymousSeptember 18th 2014.

That is to say Osborne is a competent snake oil salesman but an incompetent chancellor.

DavidSeptember 19th 2014.

The UK economy has high growth,the UK economy has falling unemployment.France has ZERO growth,and massive unemployment,especially youth unemployment.Only a idiot can claim France is doing better economically.

AnonymousSeptember 19th 2014.

You're wrong.

Barry MaginnSeptember 19th 2014.

This is boring - comparisons with France are not relevant. Especially as you credit our chancellor of the exchequer for growth and blame their president for lack thereof. Completely different roles. In fact the French president is not really responsible for many domestic affairs (pun intended) at all - the executive level in France is split and internal policy is the domain of the PM. And are you seriously telling me unemployment rate statistics can't be (and aren't) manipulated? Do you know anything about policy making and/or party politics?

rinkydinkSeptember 19th 2014.

George Osborne has done a terrific job of steering us out of the recession and having the balls to massively cut the outrageous public spending levels built up by the last incompetent Labour government. The fact that spending is still rideiculously high despite these cuts exemplifies the mess that we are in. Shudder to think what might happen if Labour get in next time but I think most people will see sense

Barry MaginnSeptember 18th 2014.

You clearly know very little about think tanks and have never met Philip Blond if you think ResPublica is 'very credible' or 'non-party aligned'. This is the think tank which invented Red Toryism and the man who was very publicly ditched by Cameron for his meaningless rants (much of it criticising the North). NESTA has been very critical of Respublica, it has had money swindling issues and the organisation has even been locked out of its office for non-payment of rent at one stage. IFS it is not.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Barry MaginnSeptember 18th 2014.

Not that I fundamentally disagree with the ideas - it would just require more credible research to get high level buy in.

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