08 Feb 2015

Leaders of UK’s great cities launch Freedom Charter at devolution summit


Caption: Core Cities leaders including Leader of Leeds City Council Cllr Keith Wakefield (standing, third from right) with the charter signed in Glasgow today (COPYRIGHT:©Warren Media 2015)

The leaders of the UK’s most economically successful cities gathered in Glasgow this morning to launch a Modern Charter for Local Freedom, setting out the powers our cities and their regions need to improve lives and boost the economy.

The charter, launched in the 800th anniversary year of the Magna Carta, sets out the basic principles on how powers can be devolved from national parliaments to drive prosperity, increase equality and strengthen democracy.

Echoing the original Magna Carta, it also calls for more control over taxes. Not to raise taxation levels – but to improve efficiency and make sure that money raised locally is spent locally by people who know their area.

And it adds that cities who want this, and meet set criteria, should be able to retain some property taxes and a percentage of income tax, to redesign everything from creating jobs to improving housing.

Core Cities already contribute almost a quarter of the combined economic output of England, Wales and Scotland, but with further devolution they could do a lot more.

The charter was launched this morning (Monday) at the Core Cities UK Devolution Summit taking place in Glasgow. The summit attracted high-profile speakers including Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander MP, Scottish Labour Leader Jim Murphy MP and Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities.

Core Cities chairman and Leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese said:

"Today, in the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta, we launch our own radical Modern Charter for Local Freedom designed to set out the powers our great cities need to create jobs, build houses and improve lives.

"We believe it is only by devolving powers to cities and their regions that the UK can succeed on a global stage. What is good enough for the UK’s nations should be good enough for our cities. We are proposing a revolutionary shift in power from our remote parliaments to local people who know their places best.

"This is a low-risk, high impact strategy to secure a bolder, better national future that will create jobs, improve lives and renew our democracy."

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Keith Wakefield said:

“The case is now overwhelming for cities and city regions to be given significantly more responsibilities and control of resources to develop and manage their own futures. The centralised Whitehall model is no longer fit for purpose in 21st century Britain, local people know best what their specific needs are and have shown they can make funding and resources work much more effectively and efficiently.

“Devolution would allow a much more targeted and localised approach to bring about growth through job creation, regeneration and skills improvements along with better transport, housing and infrastructure all integrated together to offer opportunities and the chance of improved lives for all.

“With cities and regions free to develop in their own way, the benefits would be immense as areas begin to realise their potential, bringing about a gradual rebalancing and strengthening of the national economy and helping Britain become even more influential on the international stage. The Freedom Charter sets us on a clear path to achieve that goal.”

The summit also saw the launch of a new report from leading think tank ResPublica which sets out a timetable for any incoming Government to commit to devolution.

ResPublica director Phillip Blond said:

"Our report is radical because the issue of why Core Cities have not been fulfilling their potential needs a completely new perspective. It's not enough to simply say we can tweak at the edges anymore.

"These cities deserve the fullest possible devolution of public spending and tax raising powers. We are now calling on all the parties to agree a timetable for devolution. It's time we stopped the failures in these great regions and ensured their future growth and prosperity."


Notes for editors on Leeds and Core Cities UK:

Centre for Cities has identified that Leeds is experiencing the fastest private sector jobs growth of all the UK's major cities. By 2028 the Leeds economy will be worth £24bn (Oxford Economics), its rapidly growing population is forecast to be 860,000, and it will have 70,000 new homes (Leeds Core Strategy housing target).

Leeds is in the middle of a £0.5billion retail investment in the city (2013-2016). 600,000sq ft of new office space is currently being built to meet projected demand. There is also over 250,000 sq ft of modern industrial floorspace under construction in the Leeds Enterprise Zone.

Office occupancy rates are among the highest in Europe, with one of the lowest vacancy rates in Europe. Jones Lang LaSalle forecast retail sales in Leeds will grow at 2.5% per annum, ahead of Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Berlin and Rome. Leeds is among the fastest growing cities in Europe, ahead of Germany’s strongest regional hubs such as Hamburg and Cologne and comparable with the more dynamic regional cities of France like Toulouse.

However Leeds needs the same powers and freedoms as its European competitors to raise finance for investment and to control skills funding to support economic growth.

Core Cities UK consists of Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. Core Cities UK is a unique and united local authority voice to promote the role of our cities in driving economic growth and the case for city devolution. It represents the councils of England’s eight largest city economies outside London along with Glasgow and Cardiff.

For more information please visit www.corecities.com

Contact information

Leeds City Council Communications team