New devolution deals for cities across England will be announced within months, the Government signalled, as part of plans to shift power and money away from Whitehall.
The Treasury said it was working towards devolving powers over transport, economic development and some health spending to Sheffield, Liverpool, West Midlands and Leeds. Officials said they were also “making good progress” towards a deal with Cornwall. Exact details are expected to be published with the autumn Spending Review. They will depend on the regions agreeing to introduce mayors to oversee the new powers.
George Osborne has put strengthening regional government at the heart of his plans to revitalise the UK’s regional economies following a landmark devolution agreement with councils in Greater Manchester last year.
Mr Osborne announced that the new Manchester mayor would also have control over fire services, more powers over planning and the potential to take over some national employment programmes.
There are also plans for the introduction of Oyster-style integrated ticketing across bus, tram, metro and rail.
Mr Osborne said that in particular he was looking to devolve more power to the Midlands following an agreement between local authorities in the area. He also announced the first in a series of new “county deals” including a major plan to give Cornwall a greater say over local decisions.
In the South-west, the government will allocate up to £10m to a broadband programme from 2016 to help speed up connectivity for businesses in rural areas.
The UK is discussing reforms to EU law to allow the Government to support small cider makers through the duty regime. It is also working towards building a new sports stadium for Cornwall and to support the region in key economic areas such as defence, cyber security, science, agriculture and tourism.