Resolution Foundation

In place of centralisation

A Devolution Deal for London, Greater Manchester, and the West Midlands 
Steering Economic Change

Higher economic growth in the UK requires big changes. Tackling the persistent underperformance of Manchester and Birmingham, as well as the stagnation of London’s economy since the financial crisis, are some of the changes needed to improve national prosperity.

One of the reasons for their poor performance is the British state’s internationally exceptional level of centralisation, which limits the ability of local government to drive economic change. Yet although a political consensus for further devolution exists, progress has been limited as there is little clarity on how to deliver devolution at scale, especially for taxation.

This report aims to change this by proposing a new approach to English devolution.

The next phase of devolution should take the form of a ‘triple deal’ negotiated between the government and the Mayors of Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, and London. At its core would be fiscal devolution that would reconnect local resource to local growth, and would be revenue neutral for the mayors and national government.

This can be achieved with:

  • Devolution of a share of income tax to the mayors, with Greater Manchester and the West Midlands keeping a larger share than London. Higher growth in these cities would lead to higher annual revenues, with Greater Manchester raising between £49 million and £230 million; the West Midlands raising £40 million and £187 million, London raising between £2 million and £27 million, and HM Treasury raising £161 million and £505 million in additional income tax revenues every year by 2038.
  • Complete retention of all business rates revenues and control over the multiplier;
  • Replacing all the grants that councils and the mayors receive from Whitehall with a single grant for each mayor; and,
  • Council tax reforms to give 74 per cent of households in each city, and a majority in every borough, an average tax cut of £637 a year.
  • Further devolution to improve economic growth will also require changes to powers and governance. The triple deal should therefore consider.
  • Planning reform for the mayors, and control over commuter railways, A and B roads, and city centre licensing, in addition to police powers for the Mayor of the West Midlands and other smaller changes to responsibilities.

Steering Economic Change is a series of externally-written policy essays, each of which aims to provoke public debate on a specific policy area, and sketch out an agenda that will contribute towards the wider goal of the UK becoming a higher growth, lower inequality economy.

The essays cover topics ranging from the role of smarter regulation in supporting economic growth, ensuring that the goal of ‘good jobs’ is embedded in our national industrial strategy, and the role of the higher education sector in providing the skills needed to power our services dominated economy.

They are written by a range of leading economists and policy experts, and reflect the views of the authors rather than those of the Resolution Foundation, the LSE or The Economy 2030 Inquiry.

They have been commissioned and edited by Gavin Kelly (Chair of the Resolution Foundation and member of the Economy 2030 steering group) and various members of The 2030 Economy Inquiry team.