It's OK: The Rest Of The Country Won't Hate Us If London Gets More Power

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 40 months ago
It's OK: The Rest Of The Country Won't Hate Us If London Gets More Power

Next stop: somewhere else. Photo by Matt Avent from the Londonist Flickr pool

One of the arguments against devolving more power to London — in fact, pretty much the only argument, since devolution is backed by virtually everyone we can find — is that it would cause the gap between the capital and the rest of the country to grow even bigger. Except the rest of the country doesn't think that's the case.

Andrew Carter, acting chief executive at Centre for Cities, notes, "London’s growth is good for the national economy and for other cities. As our Cities Outlook report in 2014 noted, the strong performance of London businesses has had a positive impact on employment in other cities — for example, since 2008, firms headquartered in London have increased the number of people they employ in their branches in 49 of 62 cities outside of the capital. This is just one such indication of why we should be concerned by London’s dominance, but not by its success."

It's not London (the city) that comes across as the problem, it's Westminster (the political centre). Core Cities, which represents 10 cities around the country, believes that "the UK is one of the most centralised states in the western world, and all the evidence shows that the more freedom you give cities — particularly second tier cities, but also capital cities — the more freedom they get to raise and retain more of their tax base, for example, the better they tend to do economically."

In essence, cities around the UK believe that if London gets more devolved powers, it would be part of a movement that sees all cities receive more control over their own finances. "Fiscal devolution for London could open the door for other cities to gain similar powers," agrees Carter — though if anything, Manchester is leading the way on devolution, as the recent budget revealed the city will get to keep 100% of growth in local business rates.

There's also an issue of trust and accountability, particularly identified by Core Cities. "We believe that decisions are much better taken by local politicians who tend to be trusted more than national politicians, and also devolve power far more easily down to local people at a micro level," they told us.

CityMetric also argues that "tak[ing] London out of the game" when it comes to competing for Treasury funds will benefit the rest of the country. London has the potential to raise its own money, through taxes and borrowing, for infrastructure investment. Why should we, then, dip into the central government pot for something like Crossrail 2? Leave us to build it ourselves and fund a tram system in Leeds instead.

Read more: What Would Happen If London Could Raise Its Own Taxes?

Last Updated 02 April 2015