How we use Cookies

Give us control of the purse strings

Unless mayor can raise and spend money, devolution will remain a way for Govenment to pass down responsibility for decisions, pass the buck, without  handing over any real power

Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Those keeping a close eye on the devolution agenda have noticed a shift in rhetoric and approach from the Government over the summer since Mrs May and Mr Hammond took up residency in Downing Street.

Previously the Northern Powerhouse centred on Greater Manchester seemed to be the darling of the Government, lavished with the first and most wide-ranging devolution deals.

Former Chancellor George Osborne was so besotted that he has now set up his own Northern Powerhouse Partnership to further promote the agenda.

But now amid the Brexit referendum fall-out there has been a definite and most welcome shift in the Government towards other regions – specifically the West Midlands.

It may help that the Conservatives believe that, unlike in the northern cities, they at least have a fighting chance of overturning Labour in next year’s mayoral election here.

And there are strong hints that the West Midlands’ second deal will include fiscal devolution, putting it ahead of its northern counterparts.

This would allow the region to raise and keep more tax locally to spend on housing, economic development and transport. It would also make the stakes in the mayoral race that much higher.

According to the Centre For Cities think-tank, despite recent steps towards devolution, the UK remains one of the most centralised states in the world – with far fewer taxes controlled locally or regionally than most other western democracies.

The power to raise and spend money, rather than wait for central Government to turn on the tap, is what most mean by genuine devolution.

Until that happens like local government, devolution will be just a way of passing down responsibility for decisions, passing the buck, without handing over any real power.

Save money by letting Timothy do the proof reading

Councillor Timothy Huxtable

Despite efficiency drives and austerity budget cuts, Birmingham City Council still manages to spend £1,000 per day on outside consultants.

Some specialist expert advice is obviously warranted, but in other areas it appears money and time has been wasted. Opposition Conservatives have already highlighted the mistake-ridden ‘expert’ report on which cuts in home-to-school transport for children with special needs was based.

An embarrassed education department had to reinstate the service. Now it appears a revision of the council’s constitution, drafted by legal experts, has also been found wanting. The no doubt expensive lawyers wrote a clause which talked of appointing ten councillors to the West Midlands Transport Authority.

The only trouble being that this body has been abolished and replaced by Transport for West Midlands. And the replacement committee has seven Birmingham councillors.

The error was spotted and raised by the city council’s notorious nitpicker Timothy Huxtable.

The Tory councillor’s eye for detail is legendary. From simple spelling mistakes to glaring inaccuracies no council document is safe from his forensic gaze.

It seems there could be a simple cost-effective solution to the consultancy problem.

Scrap the expensive lawyers and bean counters and give Coun Huxtable a few quid to give policy documents the once over.

In fact don’t pay him, he already does it for nothing anyway.

Comments

Journalists

Graeme Brown
Editor (Agenda and Business)
Enda Mullen
Business Reporter
Tamlyn Jones
Business Reporter
Neil Elkes
Local Government Correspondent
Emma McKinney
Education Correspondent
Ben Hurst
News Editor
Jonathan Walker
Political Editor