Tory man­i­festo pledges laws for ‘North­ern Pow­er­house’

Wilmslow Express - - NEWS -

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.

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