Wakefield Council leader calls for tax and spending powers

A report calling for more tax and spending powers to be devolved to “mid-sized” cities like Wakefield has been backed by council leader Peter Box.

The report, which argues that more devolved powers would help drive economic growth and create jobs, was launched at the Conservative Party conference on Tuesday.

It is titled The Missing Multipliers: Devolution to Britain’s Mid-sized Cities, and was commissioned by Key Cities, a lobbying group of local authorities founded by councils including Coventry, Derby, Preston, Sunderland and Wakefield.

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The government wants local authorities to retain more of the taxation collected locally - instead of it being divided up by central government - to invest in public services.

Coun Box said: “Our ambition is to ensure that medium sized cities, like Wakefield, have more control over our own destiny.

“We play a key role in the nation’s economy and actually perform better than many core cities.

“More devolution would mean quicker and greater progress, and give us an improved ability to support and drive the local economy.

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“The government is now recognising the impact of Key Cities Group and I urge them to ensure that fiscal devolution is delivered.”

The report was launched at the Conservative autumn conference by Greg Clark, secretary of state for communities and local government.

He said: “The role of Key Cities are critical to the UK’s economic growth, and I am pleased that so many of they are playing a central role in shaping the devolution proposals currently being negotiated with the government.”

Under government devolution plans, councils could be given powers to offer tax incentives to attract business investment.

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Wakefield Council, which is being hit by government cuts of 33 per cent of its annual budget by 2020, is calling for the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill to transfer as much funding and power as possible to local authorities, including tax-rasing powers.

It is also urging the government to agree five-year “funding settlements options” with Key Cities, which would allow them to negotiate devolved funds for employment, skills, business support, housing and transport.