Political and economic devolution

The vision of Birmingham’s council leader

b'ham council house

The prospect of a powerful city region level of government administering economic development, transport, skills and housing across the West Midlands has been raised by city council leader Sir Albert Bore, who used his annual budget speech to set out his vision of a “new model for city government”.

‘Roadblocks’: Chris Game from the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham commented in the Post:

“As Yes, Minister taught us, Whitehall bureaucracy trumps local democracy every time. You wonder whether the politicians who signed up to that 2010 decentralisation pledge ever really believed in it . . . Cities Minister, Greg Clark, at least tries to walk the localisation walk, with his City Deals policy of stimulating city-driven economic growth through negotiated packages of powers and discretions. However, doubling until recently as Treasury Financial Secretary, few knew better than Clark where the serious power in Britain resides, irrespective of who’s in government”.

The serious power in Britain resides in Whitehall departments and ultimately Her Majesty’s Treasury . . .

An Institute for Government study of the “obstacles to decentralisation” concluded that the most insurmountable obstacle is the in-built scepticism of a civil service whose worry is that local councils would “do something barmy” if handed additional powers and budgets.

It almost beggars belief, doesn’t it? The civil service folk who brought us the NHS IT programme, the poll tax, the Child Support Agency, and mothballed aircraft carriers sit around worrying about other people’s sanity and competence!

Contribution on devolution from LWM board members Cllr Phil Davis and former Director of the West Midlands Regional Forum of Local Authorities, George Morran: http://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/devolution-is-in-the-air-but-like-hinduism-has-diverse-traditions/