Jim McMahon MP, Shadow Minister for Devolution, commenting on the publication of the first report by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership:
“Labour is the party of devolution, and Labour councils have welcomed the breaking down of barriers to ensure power flows from Westminster into regions across the UK. Done right, devolution can empower our communities. But done wrong, it’s just cover for more cuts.
"It is deeply ironic for George Osborne to highlight the North-South divide in our country when it is his failed economic plan which has deepened that regional inequality. George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse failed to devolve real freedoms, genuine financial reform and sufficient funding to redress the economic and social imbalances which exist. It quickly became seen as a toxic brand and a hollow exercise in political PR to boost Osborne’s reputation.
"George Osborne’s version of devolution was used as a smokescreen for devolving cuts. By giving piecemeal powers to local authorities, along with huge budget reductions, central government forced the blame for cuts on to local councils. The Tories give with one hand and take away with the other. Ten of the twelve “struggling” cities in the UK are located in the Northern Powerhouse, but this government’s destructive and counter-productive cuts to local services are making the Northern Powerhouse look more like a Northern Poorhouse.
"You simply cannot empower local government if you impoverish it. George Osborne’s – and now Phillip Hammond’s – brutal and punishing cuts have left local government facing a £5.8 billion funding gap by 2020. The IFS predicts a 79% cut in direct funding for local government between 2010 and 2020, with the local authorities with the highest levels of deprivation receiving some of the greatest cuts. The move towards “financial self-sufficiency” for local councils is looking more and more like an ideological drive to make the poor areas poorer and the rich areas richer.
"The £2.6 billion hole in social care funding is leaving 1.2 million elderly people without the care they need, libraries, museums and youth centres have closed and there is a national housing crisis, with rough sleeping on the rise. And £2 billion worth of EU Structural Funds in the Northern Powerhouse are at risk after we leave the EU and are not guaranteed to be replaced by Government. Government is devolving responsibilities whilst cutting resources to the bone.
"Furthermore, it is crucial that all of the North feels the warmth of growth and prosperity - not just the city-regions who will be electing Mayors this year. The Government’s devolution agenda has failed to reach the smaller cities and towns, let alone rural areas.
"A Labour government will introduce a radical devolution agenda which sees power handed back to communities, giving councils, residents and business the opportunity to shape the way their services provided. This will be backed up by Regional Investment Banks, including a Bank of the North, which will complement rather than complicate, existing local government structures.”