English devolution: Clegg backs "decentralisation decade" as Scots prepare for independence vote

 
Guy Bentley
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Nick Clegg calls for radical decentralisation (Source: Getty)

As the debate over Scottish independence rages on and the Better Together campaign promises more powers to Holyrood, English voters have started asking whether any of this great decentralisation of power will ever be coming their way.

Well, it will be if Nick Clegg has anything to say about it. Today, the deputy prime minister will launch a report from the IPPR North think tank calling for power to be "radically" devolved to the English regions.

IPPR North director Ed Cox said:

Whichever way Scotland votes next week, Edinburgh will get new powers and widen the gap with local leaders across England.

England has waited patiently while Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been given ever greater devolution. Now is the time to redress the balance.

The IPPR report points out that eight of England's "core cities" have consistently performed below the national average in terms of GDP per capita. This differs dramatically from Germany, Italy and Sweden where there has been strong growth in "second tier" cities. Only Bristol seems to have bucked the trend.

Widespread disillusionment with an 80-year experiment in centralisation as well the main Westminster political parties means the time is right for an English devolution, the report argues.

IPPR recommends a 10-year programme of decentralisation, with tax and spending powers as well as many public services handed down to combined authorities.

The 2015 spending review should be focused on fiscal devolution with five-year funding settlements agreed, and an independent body established to propel further reforms.

In a speech to be delivered this afternoon, Clegg will say:

If ever there was a time to push for action on decentralisation, it's now.

You only need look at how the Scottish referendum debate has re-energised people's interest and engagement in politics over the last few weeks to see that this is an idea whose time has come.

The report proposed combined local authorities headed by directly elected "metro mayors". Furthermore, the decentralisation would be underpinned by new legislation similar to the Scotland and Wales acts.

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