Millions of pounds could be raised for local services and thousands of jobs could be created if Birmingham was free from central government control, the city’s chief executive has told MPs.
Stephen Hughes said there was even a case for abolishing most central government departments entirely, and just letting local councils get on with it.
Mr Hughes was speaking to MPs holding an inquiry into the future role of local government.
He said Whitehall’s determination to control local councils was damaging the city’s economy.
Birmingham could raise millions of pounds by imposing a simple tax of £1 a night on visitors to the city, such as those attending conferences, he said.
He said: “We could copy the continental system of charging £1 a bed per night for everybody that comes to the area. Nobody would notice it on their bill but it would make a significant difference.”
There are 8.1 million overnight stays in Birmingham hotels each year.
And he warned that Government projects to improve skills were ignoring the real needs of employers.
“We know one of the key shortages in the West Midlands is a particular type of high skilled engineer.
“And we know that there are private sector companies, because they’ve told us, willing to invest billions of pounds in this country, which will create thousands of jobs, if they can get a supply of engineers of this sort.
“And if they can’t they will go elsewhere in the world.
“What incentive have we got to incentivise universities to deliver that flow of engineers? We haven’t.
“It is a national programme, and the priorities of that national programme are very different to the needs of our area.”
Speaking to the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, Mr Hughes said there was a case for dramatically cutting back on national government.
“There’s a part of me which occasionally, when I am feeling mischievous, now is as good a time as any, says why not abolish national government altogether apart from defence and the foreign office and let local areas do everything? I mean, it’s a point of view.”
The Government is set to publish its Localism Bill which is designed to devolve more power to councils.