Tory manifesto pledges laws for ‘Northern Powerhouse’
DAVID Cameron has promised to enshrine Greater Manchester’s devolution deal – includ- ing creating an elected mayor – in law if the Tories win power on May 7.
The Northern Power- house appears on the first page of the Conservative election manifesto, along with a pledge to rebalance the economy. According to the manifesto – which also lists key election pledges around tax, child- care, education, the NHS, housebuilding and transport – a Tory government would ‘legislate to deliver the historic deal for Greater Manchester, which will devolve powers and budgets and lead to the creation of a directly elected mayor’.
The deal, agreed by local leaders last year, includes powers over transport, housebuilding and economic development.
That came in exchange for leaders agreeing to hold mayoral elections in 2017, however.
Mr Cameron’s determination to put the mayor on the statute books will infuriate opponents who want a referendum on the issue.
A pre-election poll carried out by our sister paper the M.E.N. last month showed 83 per cent of nearly 5,000 people had their doubts, either directly opposing it or at least wanting to have a vote on the issue.
But the Conservatives have repeatedly ruled out a referendum, with George Osborne in particular determined that devolved powers be overseen by a strong, accountable figurehead.
The Tory manifesto makes clear that similar deals will be on offer to other cities – but only if, like Greater Manchester, they ‘choose’ to have an elected mayor.
Mr Cameron also repeated George Osborne’s claim that the north is already growing faster than the south.
That is based partly on the fact employment has recently been growing fastest in the north west – although experts point out northern regions suffered a deeper recession in the first place.
Elsewhere in the Tory manifesto the party sought to spell out a range of tax cuts – including raising the tax-free allowance to £12,500 – and pledges not to raise others, such as VAT and National Insurance. There is also a pledge on free childcare, which would be doubled to 30 hours a week for three and four-year-olds, as well as the right for housing association tenants to buy their own homes.