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Minister insists devolution bill not just for big cities

Published: Thursday, 11th June 2015

The government has stressed that its city devolution bill was not just about greater Manchester and the so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’, but would also provide opportunities for other urban areas.

Department of Communities and Local Government minister Baroness Williams told the House of Lords this week that the legislation “does not just cover cities”. She said it would enable proposals to come forward from counties, groups of authorities and certainly from rural areas.

She said: “Although we have been quite tied up with the concept of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, there are great counties, such as Cornwall, which will be very keen to put forward some of their proposals, and the government are very keen to have a conversation with them.”

The minister acknowledged that the transfer of major powers would require an elected mayor but told peers it “does not preclude any area from coming forward with proposals, and a conversation taking place between those areas and government”.

She said the proposals were “an enabling bill. It does recognise that one size does not fit all. It recognises that Manchester is different from Birmingham, which is different from Leeds, which is different from Cornwall, which is different from Norwich. It also recognises that medium-tier cities will have their proposals.”

Baroness Williams added: “Nothing is being imposed. Where there is a request for an ambitious devolution of a suite of powers to a combined authority, there must be a metro mayor, but no city will be forced to have a mayor and the powers that come with it.”

Her comments came during the second reading of the administration’s Cities and Local Government devolution bill which will now be considered line-by-line by the Lords. Opposition parties are broadly in favour of the bill.

View more information on the Cities and local government devolution bill

Roger Milne