Chris Rowell: The Devolution Revolution

When regional devolution with directly elected mayors was first mooted I was skeptical. I feared it would mean another layer of government, and the centralisation of powers currently exercised at a very local level. I've since come to support it, after seeing how strongly Manchester has got behind it.

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At the Chancellor's Northern Powerhouse reception at the Conservative Party Conference, held in the old Granada studios, leading figures from the city lined up to show their support. Their enthusiasm and the realisation that our northern cities need to follow suit or be left behind won me over.

For me, the most important part of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill is the end of the Uniform Business Rate. In short, this would give local authorities the power to set business rates. This could allow areas in need of investment and jobs to drop their business rate to attact businesses and employers, something that could turn around the fortunes of communities across the UK.

Many deprived areas have Labour run local authorities who may use this power to punish business. While there are forward thinking, pro-business Labour politicians at all levels the rise of the Corbynistas shows just how real this threat is. The power to set business rates would make local government and mayoral elections even more important and increase the distinction between Conservative and Labour run authorities. The choice between prosperity with the Conservatives or decline with Labour would be clearer than ever before.

Chris managed Andrea Jenkyns MP's successful 2015 General Election campaign, where she ousted Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls. He is Chairman of Yorkshire and Humber Conservative Future and also a member of the Conservative Way Forward Organising Committee.

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  • commented 2015-10-22 12:28:06 +0100
    The problem with business rates is that once the formula ends, some councils which are top up authorities like ourselves will be around £60 million in debt. That’s £60m on top of the £84m we are expected to save.

    On top of that, we are going to end up with a Labour Mayor which nobody wants and will suck investment away from the LEPs. We are now forced to add an extra layer of tax on residents whilst doing our hardest to stop people being evicted.

    Manchester haven’t yet realised accepting the health care is a ticking time bomb.

    Manchester might well be where devolution (centralisation if you are a local authority), but the West Midlands is where it shall fail.