Call for more powers over how cities spend their money

England’s eight largest cities outside of London – including Liverpool – will today launch a major national campaign demanding more power over how they spend their money.

The Local Voices campaign will be launched at a Parliamentary Reception with Mayor of London, Boris Johnson telling MPs and Council leaders of the need to make the most of taxpayer’s money by having the power to make decisions locally.

The Local Voices campaign consists of people in each of the eight Core Cities whose work has benefitted, and would benefit further, by greater devolution of freedoms to cities.

Spokespeople include Chief Executive of Liverpool Mutual Homes Steve Coffey, who calls for more flexibility for cities such as Liverpool to have locally designed and led housing programmes.

Mr Coffey said: “It is vital that cities have locally designed and led housing programmes with policies that are more respondive to local opportunity and need. Although our plans seem ambitious we could achieve so much more if we, the cities, have the controls to stimulate construction.”

Greater freedom to decide how to spend the money generated in cities, such as property taxes, would help the Core Cities meet their target of outperforming the national economy, and becoming financially self-sustaining. Independent forecasts demonstrate this could mean an additional £222 billion and 1.3 million jobs for the country by 2030. That is like adding the entire economy of Denmark to the UK. This could also mean an additional £41.6billion to the Government in taxes from increased jobs by 2030 – enough to pay off almost half the national deficit. And that’s not by raising the levels of taxes, just by changing how current taxes are invested.

Speaking in advance of the Parliamentary Reception, Sir Richard Leese, Chair of the Core Cities Cabinet said:”The national economy needs our cities to succeed like never before in delivering jobs and growth, and reducing dependency on public services. To do so means going further and faster in devolving resources from the centre.

“The Local Voices campaign clearly demonstrates the positive impact devolution can have on people’s lives. Each of the case studies has benefited from decisions being made at a local level but at the same time have been hindered that the freedoms cities enjoy do not go far enough to enable them to make a real difference. This campaign seeks to highlight the excellent work cities do and how with more freedoms we can make our community’s better places to live.”

International cities, such as Paris, Berlin and Barcelona, have enjoyed huge amounts of economic success due to having the policy and tax freedoms to boost their local economies. Comparatively, England’s Core Cities are being hindered by central Government retaining control over 95% of funds raised locally.

Birmingham Alabama for example retains a lot more locally raised taxes than Birmingham UK. According to the OECD, the level of taxes managed at the local or regional level is about 10 times greater in Canada, 7.5 in the US, 7 in Sweden, almost 6 in Germany, and over 5 times greater across the OECD on average.

Local Voices forms part of the wider City Centred Campaign for greater devolution to cities run by Core Cities, the Mayor of London and London Councils.