Give back control

Think tank: Onward

Author(s): Adam Hawksbee

June 18, 2022

This report from UK think tank Onward looks at realising the potential of England’s mayors.

The UK is one of the most centralised countries in the developed world and, despite the promises and rhetoric of successive Governments, this situation is getting worse rather than better. As well as being underpowered, regional and local government is also underfunded compared to international counterparts. In the West Midlands the mayor controls just 0.4% of day-to-day public spending, while 84% is still controlled from Whitehall. In the North West, just 3.5% of capital spending is controlled by the Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region mayors collectively, while 74.3% is decided by Whitehall departments. This creeping centralisation has weakened our ability to respond effectively to economic and social challenges such as the need to level up growth and opportunity across the country. This paper, endorsed by an influential cross-party coalition of politicians including Andy Burnham, George Osborne, Tracy Brabin, Ben Houchen and Andy Street calls on the Government to change this, and to step back from the micromanagement of England’s cities and counties. It sets out the problems with England’s over-centralised system and makes 25 recommendations for change, including calling on the Treasury to hand mayors control of 1p in every £1 raised from income tax in their areas. This is equivalent to £6 billion a year – or around £250 million for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands and around £200 million for West Yorkshire. In return, mayors would have increased scrutiny and accountability, and greater responsibility for running local services including local transport, digital and energy infrastructure.