Making the case for devolution
As the key co-ordinating body for London local government, London Councils has long made the case for greater devolution from central to local government, based on the capital’s impressive track record of delivery in recent years.
There is much more to which London could aspire to in unlocking the full potential of the capital to deliver inclusive growth. The economic, social and governance impact of the EU referendum result has strengthened the case for London and the UK’s other cities and regions to have greater control and powers over the issues that matter to them.
Devolution will need to work for everyone, and will need to work to rapidly address the socio-economic factors that led many in London and across the country to feel that the current system did not benefit them. This will require a holistic and integrated approach delivered at a local level and directly targeting those most in need of support. Approaches like this might include developing the skills of London’s citizens so that can access jobs.
Fiscal devolution is a practical step that has the potential to better equip London boroughs for the challenges ahead, including meeting the demand for housing and schools places. While it will not in itself resolve the revenue gap facing the boroughs, it would give them significantly greater freedom and flexibility to invest in their physical and social infrastructure.
The London Finance Commission has been re-convened by Mayor Sadiq Khan and is chaired by Prof Tony Travers. It is updating and extending the work it did in 2013 to set out the case for fiscal devolution for the capital.
The interim report has been published, and re-affirms the unusually centralised nature of local government in the UK by international standards. It argues that greater local control and accountability for taxation would make possible reforms that would improve the way property taxes in particular operate, and would provide a real incentive for London Government to promote economic growth.