Devolution to Cities

I would like to come back to a subject that I raised in our successful lunch-discussion of last Saturday and which is drawing increasing attention in political circles.

The Scottish referendum and its subsequent fall-out has resulted in devolution becoming a matter of vital interest. And increasing attention is being paid to the question of devolution for England. The proposal of a separate English parliament beholden to a federal Westminster Parliament is a non-starter, given the insoluble problems it would raise.

So how to achieve some devolution for England? Great interest is now being taken in the restoration of powers to the great cities of England and cities such as Manchester and Birmingham are beginning to press for it.

There was a time when they had considerable independence, of which their palatial City Halls are said to be the symbols. Then the exigencies of the two war times resulted in the abrogation of much of those powers to Whitehall.They now seek to reverse this process and create city-regions, claiming among other things that it would eliminate considerable waste. It is interesting to note that Manchester has a greater population than Wales.

This resurgence of civic pride and the seeking of greater self- government are surely trends to be encouraged. There is an additional potential benefit. Much is being written of the increasing disaffection and alienation towards central government felt especially by the working-classes. This is said to have been particularly evident in the pro-independence votes in Scotland and not confined to the United Kingdom. It is said to be becoming a serious social problem.

The exercise of power at the city level might very well diminish this sense of alienation from central Whitehall authority.

Michael Webster