Chancellor George Osborne today pledged to ‘put the power into the Northern Powerhouse’ as he announced further devolution to Greater Manchester.
He said the Government would be ‘bold in building’ the Northern Powerhouse but no further devolution deals were announced.
Instead, Mr Osborne said the ‘historic devolution’ agreed with Greater Manchester in return for a directly-elected mayor was ‘available to other cities who want to go down a similar path’.
He revealed the Government had reached agreement with Greater Manchester on putting fire services under the control of the new mayor, establishing a land commission and announced further collaboration on children’s services and employment programmes.
Mr Osborne also disclosed the Government was working towards deals with the Sheffield and Liverpool city regions and with Leeds, West Yorkshire and partner authorities on ‘far reaching devolution of power in return for the creation of directly elected mayors’.
He said he would push for more powers and responsibility to be devolved to the Midlands and, in what is expected to be the first county deal, he said Whitehall was ‘making progress on a major plan to give Cornwall a greater say over local decisions’.
However, calling for a settlement for all non-metropolitan areas in England, the County Councils Network warned that continuing funding reductions to councils threatened to ‘undermine support to local economies unless matched by ambitious devolution right across England’.
Mr Osborne said the Government was delivering devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but that he wanted to do more in England.
He continued: ‘Devolution to the nations of the United Kingdom is well established.
‘In my view, devolution within England has only just begun.
‘What really drives this government is building up other parts of our United Kingdom, as a balance to London’s strength.
‘Let’s invest across our country.
‘Let local people decide.
‘Let’s put the power into the Northern Powerhouse.’
Mr Osborne also confirmed councils would be handed Sunday trading hours powers, as suggested by Treasury sources earlier this week.
Chairman of the Local Government Association, Cllr Gary Porter, said: ‘We are pleased to see progress on devolution deals for a number of cities and non-metropolitan areas, and stand ready to work with government to ensure ambitious deals continue to be on the table for all corners of England.
‘Devolution is an opportunity to make public spending on local services more accountable to local people.
‘We expect many more places to come forward with ambitious devolution proposals over the coming year and we look forward to working with the Government to make these a reality.’