Ed Miliband would chair regular meetings of a Cabinet of the English Regions - bringing the leader of Birmingham City Council and other major cities together with Government Ministers - if he becomes Prime Minister, Labour has announced.

But Mr Miliband also highlighted plans to give extra powers and funding to “combined authorities”, in which local councils make joint decisions.

The comments will increase pressure on council leaders in Birmingham, Solihull and across the Black Country to agree to create a joint body, which could become known as a West Midland or Greater Birmingham combined authority.

The North East, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire already have combined authorities, but Birmingham and its neighbours have been lagging behind.

And Labour will encourage councils to agree that the combined authority should have a directly-elected mayor - but stresses that it will not force a mayor on regions that don’t want one.

An English Regional Cabinet Committee would be chaired by the Prime Minister, and attended by the relevant Secretaries of State and leaders from the major English cities and county regions.

A Labour government would also introduce new laws to ensure councils can seize control of bus services without fear of a legal challenge, giving them a role setting fares and timetable similar to the one played by the Greater London Authority in the capital.

And Labour would also pass an English Devolution Act, enshrining in law new powers for local councils and combined authorities to manage funding for transport and housing, further education and support for employers, as well as giving them a formal role in commissioning health and social care.           

Greater Birmingham road sign
Labour wants regions such as the West Midlands to create combined authorities

Mr Miliband is announcing the plan for a dramatic shift of power away from Westminster to the regions of England as he meets local authority leaders in Manchester.

He is expected to say: “Labour has a radical plan for spreading power and prosperity across England’s city and county regions, so that the recovery reaches your town square – not just the Square Mile of the City of London.

“Our plan already goes further than anything this Government can offer and today I am announcing the next steps which build on the work of the Adonis Review to help city and county regions drive growth in their areas.”

The Labour leader is convening a “preparatory” meeting of a Shadow English Regional Cabinet Committee, similar to the committee he will chair as Prime Minister.

Mary Creagh, the Shadow Transport Secretary, and Hilary Benn, Shadow Local Government Secretary, will attend alongside senior councillors from across the country.

The first full meeting will be held in January and will consider a report from Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, on how the first Spending Review of a Labour Government will ensure funding is devolved to local authorities.

Birmingham MP Jack Dromey (Lab Erdington) said: “Britain can’t succeed through London and the West Midlands alone. The time has come to devolve power and resources to the West Midlands.”

Jack Dromey
Birmingham MP Jack Dromey welcomed Labour's devolution plans
 

Measures to be included in the proposed English Devolution Act include:

Transport and Housing: Infrastructure funding would be devolved to city and county region authorities

Business support: Funding for business support and enterprise projects would flow directly to strong independent Local Enterprise Partnerships in return for matched private sector funding and/or in-kind contribution

Skills: City and county region authorities would also be allocated funding to commission 19+ further education provision based on local commissioning plans

Employment support: City and county authorities would commission the Work Programme, getting the long term unemployed back to work.

And Labour says it would go much further than the Government in also devolving taxation, integrating health and social care at a local level, as well as seeking to devolve powers beyond our cities to county regions.

Business Rates: Giving control over the full revenue from business rates to city and county regions and allowing them to retain 100 per cent of additional money raised

Health and Social Care: Joining up commissioning between councils and the NHS for care for people with long-term conditions, disability and frailty.

Labour would devolve these powers to combined authorities.