LABOUR leader Ed Miliband’s plan to devolve financial power to cities and regions around the UK was marred yesterday by a row over statistics.
Miliband launched the policy in Leeds with Lord Adonis, following a year-long review into how to boost the UK’s regional economies and bring them into line with London. The pledge could see city regions retain the cash they raise from business rates, as well as receiving money devolved from central government for services such as transport and housing.
However, the figures, used to back the central aim of driving job creation away from the capital are two years out of date, according to Conservative skills minister Matt Hancock.
Hancock penned an angry letter to Miliband, demanding the Labour leader come clean about his misleading figures, which suggested that four- fifths of all new private sector jobs were created in London.
“The statistic you make reference to is from an out-of-date Centre for Cities report which only looked at the regional labour market between 2010 and 2012,” Hancock wrote. He added that more recent statistics from the Office for National Statistics suggested it was more like one in four.
In response Miliband said: “That’s the best independent research we've seen on that issue. If people want to produce more statistics they can.”
Defending its own research, a Centre for Cities spokesperson said the figures Labour quoted measure employment by place of work, whereas the ONS stats measured it by place of residence. This “dramatically undercounts” the number of people who work in London but lived outside the capital, it added, suggesting its own numbers were more accurate.
The row overshadowed an announcement that was broadly welcomed by local government leaders and business groups. There has also been much cross-party agreement on how to boost regional economies, with large parts of the theory behind Labour’s plan already backed by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.