Devolution England – Sunderland demands more power from Government

Paul Watson
Paul Watson
Have your say

SUNDERLAND is demanding more powers to improve life for people in Wearside.

Sunderland City Council is among 22 English cities urging the Government to “let us do more”, with extra decision-making powers.

The group – which represents a combined population of almost seven million people – is launching its manifesto at Westminster on Wednesday.

It is chaired by Councillor Paul Watson, who is also chair of the Association of North East Councils (ANEC).

He said: “It is our strong belief that Key Cities presents us with a significant opportunity.

“We see ourselves as very much part of the agenda for promoting economic growth nationwide.

“We are about providing our cities with more opportunities to boost the country’s economic prosperity.

“Our ‘Manifesto for Growth’ is outlining how Key Cities will work together, the key issues we share and see as crucial, and how we’ll be working with others to address these key areas.

“We see devolution and more local decision-making as a key area for our Key Cities. We all want to do more for our communities.”

The Key Cities group was founded in June 2013 by the councils of Coventry, Derby, Preston, Sunderland and Wakefield.

By December 2013, the group had an additional 17 members: Bath and North East Somerset, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Brighton and Hove, Doncaster, Hull, Kirklees, Milton Keynes, Norwich, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton, Southend-on-Sea, Stoke on Trent, Wolverhampton and York. The group now meets on a regular basis.

The group includes local authorities and cities that are “significant to the wider area in their local economy and the United Kingdom as a whole” and “intend to work together to share good practice and represent their distinctive interests to Central Government in order to influence policy.”

It’s nine-member leading group includes Sunderland, Derby, Bournemouth, Wakefield, Peterborough, Bath & NE Somerset, Brighton & Hove, Coventry and Preston.

Wakefield is leading the group’s devolution agenda. Its council leader Peter Box CBE said: “Greater devolution of powers will mean that our cities will have more control over their own destinies.

“We play a key role in the nation’s economy, and believe that more devolution would mean quicker and greater progress for Key Cities than that being achieved by city deals, community budgeting and other initiatives currently underway.

“Empowered civic leadership is widely seen as a key to both regeneration and sustainability in cities of all sizes across Europe and the United States.

“Key Cities believes that, freed from central Government control, with greater powers to raise and spend money locally, and design services specifically for their areas, cities can rebalance the economy and reduce demand on public services.”

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Shipley will launch the group’s manifesto at the Hoare Memorial Hall, Church House Conference Centre, Dean’s Yard, Westminster.

The life peer, who is the former leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “With the Key Cities group, we now have 22 city-based councils from across England that represent nearly seven million people.

“These city councils have all been elected, they represent many political persuasions, there are old and ancient cities, and there are towns that have grown and evolved into cities.

“These cities represent their neighbourhoods, they know their areas, they want to help their areas, they want to help their country grow, and they want to see more economic growth outside of London.”

Devolution is seen by the Key Cities as one of its four key policy areas, alongside the future of city centres, skills and employment, and innovative finance.

Lord Shipley added: “These cities now have a manifesto and these cities believe it would be better for us all if there is more, stronger local government in England.”

The cities group is chaired by the Leader of Sunderland City Council,