The government is working towards further devolution deals with Liverpool City Region, Sheffield and Leeds, West Yorkshire and partner authorities, to be agreed in parallel to the Spending Review.
Osborne said that if “agreement is reached, including on an elected mayor working with local leaders to oversee new powers devolved from ministers, these city regions will be granted significant additional powers and the opportunity to take control of their own affairs to support economic growth.
“To ensure that local areas have a greater say over their own economies, the government will consult on devolving powers on Sunday trading to city mayors and local authorities. This will look at allowing mayors or councils to extend Sunday trading for additional hours within parameters that they would determine.”
The six Merseyside local authorities have so far struggled to always agree on the route forward for the city region; some authorities fear a power-grab by Liverpool under any devolution deal.
Robert Hough, chairman of the Liverpool City Region LEP, said: “It was encouraging to hear the chancellor, once again, use the future prosperity of the North as one of the central themes of his budget speech. Devolution, fundamentally, is about local decision-making. And the reason I am optimistic about the devolution journey is because I have a firm belief that the best people to make decisions about the Liverpool City Region are the people who live, work and do business here.
“The Local Enterprise Partnership will play a key role in the devolution process as we are the crucial link between local government, national government and business. We are part of the way along the devolution journey which we believe presents an unparalleled opportunity for the City Region.”
Mark Rawstron, regional senior director of Bilfinger GVA, the managing agents of Merseyway shopping centre in Stockport, said: “I’m a huge supporter of local powers and devolution but the potential relaxation of Sunday trading hours and devolvement of this to a local level is fraught with issues from a personal viewpoint. How do you reconcile those people who would like to work with those who do not, safeguards are one thing but the reality can be very different. Supporters say it will add to the economy but should we be judging everything from an economic output position, one would like to think not. The existing six hours of opening would seem to strike the right balance with those smaller traders able to open for longer. Why change a system which seems to respect varied view-points, at least to some extent?”