Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged a dramatic shift in power away from London – to English cities and counties – in his manifesto.
Mr Miliband predicted the general election on May 7 could be decided by “a few hundred votes in a few dozen constituencies” as he launched the party’s plans in Manchester.
But the manifesto also includes proposals to cut benefits for the highest claimers in regions such as the West Midlands.
Labour’s manifesto set out plans for a revolution in government, including:
* Taking £30 billion away from Whitehall departments and handing it to local councils working with their neighbours
* A new English Cabinet - chaired by the Prime Minister with council leaders from the biggest cities and counties as members
* A new elected Senate of the Nations and Regions to replace the House of Lords
And the document states: “We will embark on the biggest devolution of power to our English city and county regions in a hundred years with an English Devolution Act.”
However, the manifesto also says that Labour will stick with the present Government’s policy of capping benefits - and will look at whether the cap in some parts of the country should be lower than the current level of £26,000 a year.
Critics of the existing system have argued that it saves money in London and the south east, where soaring housing costs mean some claimants need high levels of housing benefit, but has little effect in the rest of the country.
Labour’s manifesto says the cap could actually be lowered outside the south east, saying: “We will keep the household benefit cap and ask the Social Security Advisory Committee to examine if it should be lower in some areas.”
Since April 2013, 4,153 households have had their benefits capped across the West Midlands. But if the cap was lowered then more households would be hit.
Other measures in the manifesto include giving football fans a legal right to have a say in how their club is run.
The manifesto promises: “We will introduce legislation to enable accredited supporters trusts to appoint and remove at least two of the directors of a football club and to purchase shares when the club changes hands.”
This could be welcomed by fans of clubs such as Birmingham City and Coventry - which have both been hit by controversy over they way they are managed.
Launching the manifesto, Mr Miliband predicted: “This election could come down to a few hundred votes in a few dozen constituencies”.
And he insisted the criticism he has received showed he was “ready” to be Prime Minister, saying: “I’ve been tested. It’s right that I’ve been tested . . . tested for the extraordinary privilege of pleading the country.”
One of the key themes of the manifesto is a promise that Labour will cut the deficit - the gap between how much the Government spends and how much it receives in taxes - every year. And the Office for Budget Responsibility, an independent Treasury watchdog, will verify that every annual Budget statement cuts the deficit rather than increases it.