England & Wales Democracy, devolution and governance, Finance

Democracy-max: council leaders say yes to devolution


We asked council leaders and cabinet members if the promised greater tax, spending and welfare powers in Scotland should be matched by greater devolution in England and Wales.

Almost all said yes. Ninety-six percent of respondents felt that greater powers should be devolved. Sixty-one percent felt that the devolved powers would be best held by councils, whereas 19% felt the powers should be transferred to sub-regions.

An overwhelming 93% of respondents wanted greater devolution of the powers to vary business rates. 84% wanted increased freedom to borrow and spend and 79% wanted the ability to raise local taxes. Also, 73% felt that councils should control all local public spending on areas such as health.

By contrast, just 30% were in favour of devolving the ability to vary top and bottom rates of income tax.

Following the Scottish referendum, we have heard a lot of talk about English parliaments and regional assemblies. but the recent history of proposed constitutional change: AV, elected mayors, regional assemblies, does not suggest that it’s what people want.

Instead, as this survey shows, we need to focus on the democratic structures we already have in place across the rest of the UK.  We need to think about increasing local tax-raising powers, varying business rates, pooling budgets for all public spending, including health, and making sure that budget is managed by democratically elected local representatives. That’s how we can give people a real sense of control over the places they live in and the services they use.