THE BLOG

Devolution Needs to Look Beyond the Scottish Referendum to Power Our Cities Across the Whole UK

09/09/2014 11:42 BST | Updated 08/11/2014 10:59 GMT

As chair of the City Growth Commission I have found myself repeatedly arguing that each report we published was the most important, be it on identifying the scope of our analysis; skills and employment; and connectivity and infrastructure. This is no less the case in our latest report, "Powers to Grow: City finance and governance" where we discuss in detail the crucial topic of city finance and governance - significant issues for our policymakers at all levels of government to consider in order to realise the full potential of the UK economy.

The degree of centralised control in the UK is dramatic compared to other major economies, whether developed or developing, and it doesn't seem obvious as to why this makes good economic sense for either those that live in different parts of the country nor the country as a whole.

As we have all witnessed with the run-up to the Scottish referendum on independence, some of our citizens want to have more decisions made about their futures by those who live and operate in their communities. However, the economic importance of our metros is the basis of our medium and long-term economic future. What happens in the likes of Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and all of the other 15 metros we defined in our first paper will be more important for UK economic growth than what happens in the rest of Scotland combined.

Enabling the leaders of these major urban areas to decide what is right for them, and with it, for them to carry the responsibility for those decisions is crucial. In this report, we lay out the key areas of financial responsibility we believe should be transferred to some metros. Crucially, and as clearly suggested by the Chancellor in early August, it is only sensible to devolve this fiscal responsibility to those urban areas that can demonstrate they can succeed with this greater autonomy.

We have found from our evidence gathering around the country that some metros are more ready than others, and it would not make sense to devolve responsibility to them all now. Indeed, it is probably the case that only the best organised and most focused should be given those responsibilities.

The experience of our previous reports has taught us that our ideas can quickly gain traction, promoting responses from national and city leaders. The challenge is now for the political parties to seize this window of opportunity and to turn recent rhetoric into reality.