Durham and North Yorkshire council chiefs join fiscal devolution calls

Darlington and Stockton Times: Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig Leader of Durham County Council, Simon Henig

COUNTY council chiefs in the region have joined a growing revolt by demanding more power to run their own affairs.

Both Durham and North Yorkshire have urged the Government not to leave them in the slow lane, as devolution is stepped up to England’s big cities.

The two authorities spoke out as the Commons local government select committee carries out an inquiry into “fiscal devolution” within England.

Both are members of the 36-strong County Councils Network (CCN), which has put forward a radical submission to MPs, demanding a “more ambitious approach”.

Councillor Simon Henig, Durham’s Labour leader, said: “Devolution should be widened beyond the current offer to a small number of core cities.

“Skills funding and employment programmes would be the biggest priority for us. Increased borrowing - particularly if at a lower rate than currently available - would also be welcome.”

And Councillor John Weighell, Conservative leader of North Yorkshire, said: “It has long been my view that local government will be more accountable if it can raise more funds locally.

“County councils have had a raw deal, even though it’s the counties that deliver most infrastructure – the roads and the schools.”

However, despite both being members of the CCN, the two leaders disagree about key aspects of its submission, which calls for devolution of:

* All of business rates – at present, only a proportion are retained by councils.

* Stamp duty – something proposed for London, by Mayor Boris Johnson.

* Capital gains on property development.

* A proportion of extra tax revenues from local economic growth – an “earn back” scheme, being pioneered in Manchester.

* Skills funding and employment programmes.

* Increased borrowing - through municipal bonds.

Coun Henig repeated earlier warnings that full retention of business rates and capital gains would hurt Durham, while the “earn back” would bring little benefit.

The authority is part of the proposed combined authority, to cover Tyne and Wear and Northumberland, which is pursuing powers over skills and jobs programmes.

In contrast, Coun Weighell backed the retention of revenues from stamp duty and growth, saying: “If we are increasing the economy of the area, we should get some reward."

And he called for the return of authorities raising municipal bonds, adding: “That’s an old idea, that brought in lots of money.”

The Tory leader also attacked Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles’ attempts to force through council tax freezes, saying: “That’s a major attack on local democracy.”

The MPs’ inquiry has been sparked by the spread of ‘City Deals’ - including to Newcastle and the Tees Valley – as well as devolution to Scotland and Wales.

Ministers will be required to respond to the committee’s report, which is expected to be published in the next few months.

Comments (8)

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8:53pm Mon 17 Feb 14

Daveindarlo says...

Why do they want this? So they can increase taxes for us and create a load of new jobs for the boys.
The people overwhelmingly rejected the idea of more politicians in referendum not long ago.
This is the last thing we need in the north east.
Why do they want this? So they can increase taxes for us and create a load of new jobs for the boys. The people overwhelmingly rejected the idea of more politicians in referendum not long ago. This is the last thing we need in the north east. Daveindarlo

9:38pm Mon 17 Feb 14

oliviaden6 says...

Daveindarlo wrote:
Why do they want this? So they can increase taxes for us and create a load of new jobs for the boys.
The people overwhelmingly rejected the idea of more politicians in referendum not long ago.
This is the last thing we need in the north east.
Can only agree firstly they give us the PCC's and all the hangers on that have happened along with that now the councils want to create another tier or tosspots to rob us all the more. NO NO NO
[quote][p][bold]Daveindarlo[/bold] wrote: Why do they want this? So they can increase taxes for us and create a load of new jobs for the boys. The people overwhelmingly rejected the idea of more politicians in referendum not long ago. This is the last thing we need in the north east.[/p][/quote]Can only agree firstly they give us the PCC's and all the hangers on that have happened along with that now the councils want to create another tier or tosspots to rob us all the more. NO NO NO oliviaden6

10:29pm Mon 17 Feb 14

spragger says...

Now that will be really good news for net taxpayers.
Why do these people not just get on with spending our money efficiently?

Maybe they cannot?
Now that will be really good news for net taxpayers. Why do these people not just get on with spending our money efficiently? Maybe they cannot? spragger

11:33pm Mon 17 Feb 14

MSG says...

The north east voted NO .
The north east voted NO . MSG

12:10am Tue 18 Feb 14

DURHAM CITY says...

What a p-ss take this is god help us now this goes from bad to worse
What a p-ss take this is god help us now this goes from bad to worse DURHAM CITY

10:18am Tue 18 Feb 14

Ally F says...

It's personal empire building, plain and simple. Time these £100K plus boys got their heads down and focussed on the job they are grossly overpaid to do rather than dreaming up little fiefdoms.

The public doesn't want it - end of. Regional devolution plans, regional mayors, etc., have all been overwhelmingly booted out at the ballot box. Here's my suggestion Simon; rather than dream up regional sink holes to throw hard earned tax payers money into get your head down and fix some pot holes.
It's personal empire building, plain and simple. Time these £100K plus boys got their heads down and focussed on the job they are grossly overpaid to do rather than dreaming up little fiefdoms. The public doesn't want it - end of. Regional devolution plans, regional mayors, etc., have all been overwhelmingly booted out at the ballot box. Here's my suggestion Simon; rather than dream up regional sink holes to throw hard earned tax payers money into get your head down and fix some pot holes. Ally F

5:23pm Tue 18 Feb 14

peter laidler says...

Mr Henig, who on earth do you think you are? We, the vox populous voted against a Regional Assembly many moons ago and yet you persistently return to this proposal of devolution of power. Has Alex Salmond set a trend here I wonder? You may live in the Land of the Prince Bishops, but your far from being one. Just get on with the job we pay you a generous salary for and try your best...........up to now I'm not that impressed with your performance
Mr Henig, who on earth do you think you are? We, the vox populous voted against a Regional Assembly many moons ago and yet you persistently return to this proposal of devolution of power. Has Alex Salmond set a trend here I wonder? You may live in the Land of the Prince Bishops, but your far from being one. Just get on with the job we pay you a generous salary for and try your best...........up to now I'm not that impressed with your performance peter laidler

11:24pm Tue 18 Feb 14

DURHAM CITY says...

who seen Mr Henig on the sunday politics show he as usual never answered the question how much this will cost the tax payers the man is a fool
who seen Mr Henig on the sunday politics show he as usual never answered the question how much this will cost the tax payers the man is a fool DURHAM CITY

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