More devolution can help the North thrive

New research from IPPR North has argued that the centralisation of power in Westminster is unfairly holding all of England back.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was very vocal about the need to level up regional divides at the top of his government’s agenda. However, the think tank’s new report found that 47 per cent of new jobs in England in the last decade were in London and the south-east, despite only a third of the population living in that region.

However, despite this unequal distribution of job opportunities, IPPR North said that these regional economic divides do not benefit people in London, with those living in the capital facing some of least affordable housing in the country, and among the highest rates of income inequality. In fact, 28 per cent of people in the capital are trapped in relative poverty, after housing costs.

Researchers argue that levelling up can only be achieved by putting mayors and local leaders in the driving seat and devolving power across England.  Already, the North is showing what it can do with limited powers that have been passed down to metro mayors and through devolution deals. But the North will need more clout, more funding and more fiscal autonomy to reach its full potential, says the report. Moving forward, regions, towns and cities across England must be empowered to tackle the severe regional divides our centralised governance has created.

Luke Raikes, a senior research fellow at IPPR North, said: “Levelling up should mean opening the door for all of England to benefit from devolution, while also letting areas that have devolution take on more. This parliament must be the devolution parliament. It is time to overturn the centralisation that’s let towns, cities and regions fall into decline. The government must give places the power and resources they need, to adapt to the decades of change that lie ahead.”

Richard Leese, chair of the Local Government Association’s City Regions Board, said: “There is clear and significant evidence that the country gets better value for money when decisions over investment and how to run local services are taken closer to communities and businesses. As this report shows, with the right powers and funding, devolution can lay the foundations for a more inclusive and prosperous economy across the whole of England.  

“Democratically-elected councils are best placed to support the Government in seizing the opportunities for growth in the years ahead. They also make a huge difference to their communities by building desperately-needed new homes, creating jobs and providing care for older and disabled people. We urge the government to publish its promised Devolution White Paper as soon as possible, and to reignite the process of handing councils the freedom and resources they need to get on and deliver for their communities.”