The Devolutionaries - Powering Up England's Cities


2014101320141017 (R4)Steph McGovern explores proposals to devolve more powers to England's cities.
20141013There are growing calls to devolve more powers to England's cities in the wake of the Scottish referendum. Steph McGovern explores the proposals.

Proponents say that devolving more power to cities, enabling them to take decisions about taxes and spending, could be the key to their growth. Compared with many other countries, the UK is highly centralised and the devolutionaries believe that is holding back cities outside of London.

Steph McGovern hears from economist Jim O'Neill, who has chaired the City Growth Commission, a year-long investigation into the subject, which publishes its final report later this month. She discovers why O'Neill believes it is important for cities outside London to be able to grow into metro regions, in the way that American cities like Boston have been able to recover from deindustrialisation.

She meets the civic leaders in Manchester to hear about their innovative 'earnback' scheme for investing in new infrastructure. And she finds out how proposals for fiscal devolution, enabling cities to raise their own taxes, might work and how the plans may require new forms of accountability, such as proposals for city mayors.

Produced by Philip Reevell

A City Broadcasting production for BBC Radio 4.