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  1. Politics
3 November 2014

The Manchester model: we must be ambitious for our cities

Why our cities should follow Greater Manchester on how to be engines of growth in a new Britain.

By Lucy Powell

Yet again Greater Manchester is leading the way. Our proud conurbation, the birthplace of the industrial revolution and the prosperity that flowed from it is now showing how modern cities can be the engines of growth in a new Britain.

More devolution of powers and funds to city regions is the best way for Britain to prosper in the future. If we’re to grow our economy in a fair way and allow others to grow like London and the South East then we must be ambitious for all our cities.

Across the world the rise of cities has spread prosperity and innovation but here, as Jim O’Neil said last month our cities are being held back. For too long our core city-regions have had their hands tied, going with a begging bowl to Whitehall instead of forging their own destinies. 

Analysis of OECD data by the House of Commons Library shows that the UK has just 3 cities in the top 100 cities in the world by GDP. Germany has 10; South Korea has 4! The UK is at the bottom of the G7 league for cities. Of our core cities – Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield – just two are in the top 100; nine are in the top 200 and one doesn’t even make that. We must be ambitious for our cities. Let’s get the Manchester City Region into the top 50 cities. Let’s get Liverpool, Leeds and the rest motoring ahead too.

Ed Miliband gets this. He has pledged to win power in order to give it away. In the last few days Ed committed Labour to far reaching and radical devolution of power to city and county combined authorities so that local people can decide their local priorities and services.

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The agreement signed today between the Treasury and Greater Manchester is very much welcome. We should see it as a start not an end.

Labour’s devolution plans will see even more power and resources handed to local areas, including over local buses. We will pass an English Devolution Act and transfer £30 billion over five years from the centre back to city and county regions to boost economic growth and to give them 100 per cent of the additional Business Rates revenue generated by growth to invest in building further success in our regions.  This will be open to all areas of the country.

The model forged in Greater Manchester of a directly-elected mayor which is rooted in the Combined Authority and local government leadership could provide a much more effective, collaborative and powerful model than that in London.  One which I hope also ensures that issues like health, social care and early years are as much as a priority as infrastructure, transport and planning.

These developments aren’t at the price of towns and rural communities either.  Burnley, Blackburn and Blackpool can and will benefit from a more powerful Manchester and Liverpool, and should seek to forge their own destinies. This is not a zero-sum game.

Communities are crying out for a say over their own future and services; the Tories are playing catch-up. But people in Manchester and the North won’t be fooled by a Tory bearing gifts. We’ve had five years of failed Tory policies that have hit our area hard. Not just the unfair and uneven execution of the cuts to local government; but the Bedroom Tax; their appalling record on youth unemployment; an NHS under huge stress; to name but a few.

Greater Manchester is, as it has so often been, at the vanguard of the way our country needs to change.  Let’s get on with it, further and faster.

Lucy Powell is the Labour and Cooperative MP for Manchester Central and shadow childcare minister

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