‘End paral­y­sis to let North go it alone and set own taxes’

Min­is­ter un­veils rad­i­cal de­vo­lu­tion idea

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - BEN BAR­NETT NEWS COR­RE­SPON­DENT ■ Email: ben.bar­[email protected]­me­dia.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @benbthewriter

THE GOV­ERN­MENT has been urged to wake up from a Brexit paral­y­sis to act on grow­ing sen­ti­ments from one of its own min­is­ters to de­vise a de­vo­lu­tion deal for the North that could even al­low the re­gion to set its own tax rates.

North­ern Pow­er­house Min­is­ter Jake Berry said White­hall was con­sid­er­ing a pro­posed new depart­ment for the North of Eng­land and he ad­vo­cated the idea of it hav­ing its own sec­re­tary of state to drive for­ward trans­port, ed­u­ca­tion and de­vo­lu­tion in the re­gion, us­ing funds raised by its 19 mil­lion cit­i­zens.

John Gro­gan MP, who is cham­pi­oning a One York­shire de­vo­lu­tion deal, wel­comed the “rad­i­cal” pro­posal. Other north­ern groups said the “bold” idea could help close the North-South di­vide be­cause a cen­tralised tax sys­tem is fail­ing north­ern com­mu­ni­ties.

Mr Berry, in a re­port in The Sun­day Times, said: “With so much eco­nomic growth, it is time for the Gov­ern­ment to con­sider a depart­ment for the North of Eng­land, with its own sec­re­tary of state.”

And, he added: “We should not close our minds to the lo­cal­i­sa­tion of tax­a­tion. A big com­plaint is that money is be­ing in­vested more in Lon­don and the South than in the North.

“Taxes raised in the North could be spent in the North. And we should not close our minds to vary­ing in­come tax at a lo­cal level.”

He said many north­ern­ers voted to leave the Euro­pean Union over dis­em­pow­er­ment and a lack of con­trol of their lives, but they did not want pow­ers to sim­ply

trans­fer to White­hall. Mr Berry added: “Each re­gion across the North should have its own be­spoke de­vo­lu­tion deal. An eco­nomic boom here would help drive this coun­try’s econ­omy for­ward post-Brexit. We need the pow­ers to be able to do that.”

North­ern lead­ers have long called for de­volved pow­ers and Mr Gro­gan, Labour MP for Keigh­ley, said: “I hope this will trans­late into a will­ing­ness by the Gov­ern­ment to start some se­ri­ous talks about One York­shire de­vo­lu­tion.”

Mr Berry’s pro­pos­als rep­re­sent “the sort of cre­ative and bold think­ing we need to re­bal­ance the econ­omy and nar­row the North-South di­vide”, said Henri Muri­son, di­rec­tor of the North­ern Pow­er­house Part­ner­ship, al­though, he added: “Whether we pri­ori­tise vary­ing in­come tax or greater wider fis­cal de­vo­lu­tion is open to de­bate.”

Mr Muri­son, who wants wide­spread de­vo­lu­tion in the North to un­lock cru­cial in­vest­ment, said Brexit had “paral­ysed” the Gov­ern­ment into not act­ing upon cru­cial pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions.

He said: “In­ter­ven­tions such as these, build­ing on the pro­pos­als we have put for­ward with the sup­port of our busi­ness and civic lead­ers, are a wel­come first step to putting the North­ern Pow­er­house agenda back on min­is­te­rial in-trays.”

Sarah Long­lands, di­rec­tor of the IPPR North think-tank, ad­vo­cated a fresh look at tax­a­tion, say­ing: “We’ve al­ways ar­gued that there’s very lit­tle de­vo­lu­tion on tax in Eng­land com­pared to other Euro­pean coun­tries.

“Hav­ing a cen­tralised sys­tem in the­ory means you can dis­trib­ute tax in­come be­tween rich and poor ar­eas but the cur­rent cen­tralised tax regime isn’t work­ing for the North. There isn’t the proper dis­tri­bu­tion of fund­ing to al­low us to func­tion prop­erly and ful­fil our eco­nomic po­ten­tial.”

She added: “The chal­lenge now is in the re­fresh of the North­ern Pow­er­house strat­egy. That will be a chance to look at the de­tail as to how any ideas of how fis­cal de­vo­lu­tion could work. Let’s open the de­bate to North­ern po­lit­i­cal, civic and pri­vate sec­tor lead­ers.”

Taxes raised in the North could be spent in the North.

Jake Berry, North­ern Pow­er­house Min­is­ter.

SHORTLY AFTER re­ceiv­ing a de­tailed eco­nomic study sug­gest­ing a ‘One York­shire’ de­vo­lu­tion deal could give the re­gion a £30bn boost, North­ern Pow­er­house min­is­ter Jake Berry said in Oc­to­ber it would take time for the Gov­ern­ment to prop­erly as­sess the re­port to de­ter­mine its fea­si­bil­ity be­fore com­ing back with a re­sponse.

Re­gional lead­ers may sim­i­larly now wish to ap­ply their own crit­i­cal as­sess­ment of Mr Berry’s own pro­pos­als in a news­pa­per in­ter­view for the for­ma­tion of a new Gov­ern­ment depart­ment for the North of Eng­land which would be al­lowed to set its own tax rates.

Be­fore such an idea could ever come to fruition which given the ex­tent to which the Gov­ern­ment and Par­lia­ment are grid­locked by Brexit is ques­tion­able - spe­cific in­for­ma­tion around in­tended pow­ers, gover­nance and de­liv­ery would have to be forth­com­ing in the same way that has been de­manded of, and de­liv­ered by, pro­po­nents of a One York­shire de­vo­lu­tion deal.

How­ever, de­spite the lack of specifics around his new pro­pos­als, Mr Berry’s lat­est com­ments do im­prove the case for York­shire de­vo­lu­tion as he de­ployed many of the same ar­gu­ments for ex­tra pow­ers that have al­ready been made for this re­gion of over five mil­lion peo­ple.

“A big com­plaint is that money is be­ing in­vested more in Lon­don and the South than in the North,” he said, be­fore adding that “North­ern­ers who voted for Brexit don’t want those pow­ers to be taken from the EU and stop at White­hall” and that de­vo­lu­tion will help drive the coun­try’s econ­omy for­ward after Brexit.

Most no­tably, he stated that ev­ery re­gion across the North should have its own be­spoke de­vo­lu­tion deal. The ques­tion re­mains on how that would work in prac­tice but it would be churl­ish not to wel­come this sen­si­ble ap­proach to un­lock­ing the full po­ten­tial of York­shire and the North.

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