LABOUR is today expected to promise the “biggest devolution of power in 100 years” if they win the next election.
Ed Miliband will kick-start a race to be the “party of devolution” by doubling the funding pot for local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) in Hampshire and other areas to “at least £20 billion” over the next parliament.
In a major speech, the Labour leader will say ministers have largely “ignored”
Lord Heseltine’s radical call for England’s towns and cities to have real muscle.
And he will pledge to pick up that baton – giving LEPs both far more money and far greater powers than the Coalition, starting within months of Labour winning power.
LEPs would – if they “met strict tests” – bid for a £4 billion annual pot of Whitehall cash, instead of the £2 billion currently being made available, from next year.
And they would also run back-to-work schemes, apprenticeships programmes and large-scale house building projects – all powers not currently on offer – as well as transport funding.
Mr Miliband is expected to say: “This Government had an opportunity to make a difference.
“Michael Heseltine’s review called for a massive devolution of funding from Whitehall to the cities. But David Cameron and George Osborne allocated just £2 billion.
“The best report this Government has produced has been the one that they have most ignored. We can and must do a lot better than that.”
Mr Miliband will unveil the “interim conclusions” of a “growth review” carried out by Lord Adonis, the former Labour Transport Secretary.
And he will pledge: “Cities and towns that agree to come together with local businesses, to plan for their economic future, will be given historic new powers over funding for infrastructure, skills and economic development.”
However, the first “strict test” is forming a “combined authority”, something already carried out in Greater Manchester, Merseyside and West Yorkshire.
It would require the leaders of Southampton City Council and Hampshire’s other 11 town halls to join forces, by working together formally.
They will also need to show they have drawn up viable devolution plans, jointly with the business-led LEP and local universities, to be ready by early 2016.
Mr Miliband and shadow chancellor Ed Balls have written to all councils, universities and LEPs, urging them to “prepare plans” urgently.