Government ‘serious’ about devolution despite Brexit distraction

Transport minister George Freeman said “the North should be cheered” by promises coming from Government regarding investment in the region, as the Prime Minister has “heard the frustration.”

Freeman was speaking at a Localis fringe event covering the future of urban devolution, at the Conservative Party Conference taking place in Manchester today.

He said this Government was “more serious” about investing in the North, “more so than others I’ve seen previously”, and Boris Johnson has “really got this”, despite the distraction of Brexit.

Speaking alongside Freeman was Lord Bob Kerslake, former head of the civil service.

According to Kerslake, “in comparison to other developed countries, the UK is almost the most unequal. We come 28th, which is almost a Eurovision song contest level of poor performance, and the gap has widened over recent years.

“We all talk about devolution but we’ve become more centralised. George Osborn broke through, because he was a powerful figure, and could go round all of the departments telling them what he wanted, and it worked.

“You need a plan and a powerful figure in Government to push this through.”

Kerslake said “the deal based model is finished”, which Freeman agreed with.

“We need to give responsibility to people and places, in order to rebuild trust in politics.

“We’ve reached the end of the road of people like me issuing dictats from London… it’s amazing we have any inspired local leaders left… the complexity they get wrapped up in is off the scale.”

Freeman suggested incentivisation was key to the next era of devolution, proposing that local areas need to be given control of deficit reduction and growth, and if they beat national average targets they should get a share of the savings.

Speaking to Place North West, Freeman admitted “we have been talking about this for years, and we started in the North a few years ago putting in almost half a billion pounds. However that all went on governance, not developing incentives, and if we continue to simply pour money into enlightened areas without incentives it won’t work.”

George Freeman And Panel

George Freeman, far left, said Government “was serious” about devolution while proposing a fresh model for investment in the regions

Your Comments

Read our comments policy

Let London go it alone, it has the potential to be a super rich independent state.

By Dan

Half a billion pounds is an insult. The tram to the Trafford centre cost that. These people continue to talk big and do nothing. They sneer at us. Burnham is nothing but a lobbyist. He has no control over anything of significance. Rotherham has even less sway. They have now tried to divide and conquer regarding NPR. Telling Bradford that to pay for an underground station in Manchester they may have to forfeit their station on the line and have a parkway station. This station is supposed to be costing 6 billion pounds? What are they building it from Platinum? This whole sorry saga of neglect continues year after year after year. Why do any of these political parties hold their conferences up here?

By Elephant

‘incentivisation is the key’ – sounds like a carrot and stick approach and another small solution to a much larger problem rather than giving commitment in cash. Five years on, no visible change despite the devo deal. It needs proper investment and capital commitment and that’s hardly going to come from a Government that clearly isn’t in control until there is a General Election. They can say what they like although its hard to be convinced

By Taxed

Ey up, By Dan: How would London survive cut off from the income it obtains from the rest of the UK: taxes, rents, profits, charges for unified-state government and commercial services and so on. Do not believe that London generates all the wealth and kindly half-fills the Northern begging bowl. By the way, industrial manufacturing generates over 20 percent of national wealth, if you correctly include all the now outsourced services provided for and paid for by manufacturing. Don’t trust London media and London government deskjockeys.

By James Yates

Now they’ve finished giving out sweets to those they wanted to give sweets to, half a billion here, £3bn there, “the deal based model is finished”. Now they move on to phase 2 which is to devolve responsibility.

That, of course, is for everyone. Their patsy in the north is, and always was, simply to play the line that everyone else is just feckless and incapable, with no one to blame but themselves for being in a sorry state.

It’s not a new approach, just the same one being told by vaguely different people.

By Mike

Dan, London can go it alone when it pays back the £1.5 trillion the rest of the UK paid to stop it collapsing a decade ago.

By Loganberry

Elephant is a proud Manc, and I cant but help agree with him. Outside of linking the name to projects already in the pipeline, what has the NPH actually done for the North West? Its all talk and cucumber sandwiches. When the West – East infrastructure corridor is announced and a spade goes into the ground; AND it becomes the UKs most important project; will be the only time I beleive in the NPH.

By Billy

Related Articles

Sign up to receive the Place Daily Briefing

Join more than 13,000 property professionals and receive your free daily round-up of built environment news direct to your inbox


Join more than 13,000 property professionals and sign up to receive your free daily round-up of built environment news direct to your inbox.

By subscribing, you are agreeing to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

"*" indicates required fields

Your Job Field*
Other regional Publications - select below