The government is working towards Greater Manchester style devolution deals with at least three other areas in the north of England, George Osborne revealed today. The chancellor also confirmed plans for devolution to Cornwall that were revealed by HSJ and Local Government Chronicle last week.
- Osborne confirms Cornwall devolution deal is “making progress”
- Further devolution talks under way in Yorkshire, Merseyside and the Midlands
- Devolution proposals must be concluded by autumn’s spending review
But, in his post-election Budget, Mr Osborne imposed a time limit on further devolution deals – all arrangements must be agreed before the Comprehensive Spending Review is published this autumn.
The Budget revealed a new tranche of powers for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority – the area in England most advanced in its devolution talks with central government.
And Mr Osborne told Parliament that, “in the first of our new county deals we’re making progress on a major plan to give Cornwall a greater say over local decisions”.
HSJ and its sister title Local Government Chronicle reported last week that Cornwall was planning to fully pool health and social care budgets by 2020, and that leaders in the area were also looking at options to combine that pot with welfare spending, creating a total budget worth about £2bn.
The chancellor went on: “I can also tell the house we are working towards deals with the Sheffield and Liverpool City Regions and Leeds, West Yorkshire and partner authorities on far reaching devolution of power in return for the creation of directly elected mayors.”
However, it is understood that it is not a priority for council bosses in West Yorkshire and Sheffield to have more influence over NHS budgets, as is being pursued in Greater Manchester.
The Budget document appears to impose a deadline on areas wishing to secure devolution deals.
It states: “The government remains open to any further proposals from local areas for devolution of significant powers in return for a mayor, in time for conclusion ahead of the spending review.”
In Greater Manchester, Mr Osborne announced he had agreed that the combined authority would take control of fire services, and would have more say over planning via a “land commission” for the city region.
According to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the land commission will “have an overview of all publicly owned land in the region, including that owned by government and other public sector bodies.
“It will look at and coordinate how that land can be used to support Greater Manchester’s wider ambitions - including the need for 10,000 new homes a year to support its growing economy and communities - and address any barriers to such land being developed.”
The commission will be jointly chaired by the mayor and housing minister – currently Brandon Lewis – and will also involve ministers from other “key landowning” departments.
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Osborne sets deadline for future devo deals