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Burnham calls for English regions to be set free to improve our city-region

19/03/2018

Andy Burnham has called on the Government to increase devolution to English regions to ensure stability and growth across the country during the Brexit process.

Mayor of Greater Manchester
  • Further devolution is the key to growing our businesses and improving services after Brexit
  • While Government is focused on Brexit, devolved administrations should be able to fill the gap and deliver local priorities
  • More strategic use of devolution would allow greater local control to help meet needs of local businesses and residents

The Mayor made the call for greater local control, particularly around the areas of post-16 skills including apprenticeships and the apprenticeship levy, before the Housing, Communities and Local Government select committee. The committee met at Manchester University on Monday morning (March 19).

Andy said: “Brexit is going to have a huge impact on so many different parts of everyone’s lives. We can already see the effect it is having on our Government. Whitehall is creaking under the pressure of having to negotiate an exit from the European Union. Domestic issues are being neglected while the Government’s bandwidth is completely taken up by Brexit. This is all to the detriment of the public they serve.

“They do, however, have the ability to fix this. There are devolved administrations across our country which are primed and ready to make decisions on domestic issues to truly make the difference people need. But we cannot do this while we have one hand tied behind our backs.

“Devolving more power to English regions to let them get on with looking after their people will not only help residents, but also help to ensure a smoother Brexit process. A key part of this is to make sure we have people with the right skills to get jobs once we have left the EU. Further devolution to allow a less fragmented post-16 skills system with clear and attractive choices for young people, including apprenticeships and T-Levels, would go a long way to connecting residents and businesses with the growth of Greater Manchester.

“Further devolution is the key to making a post-Brexit future a success.”

The NHS in Greater Manchester is expected to raise around £11.5m from the apprenticeship levy this year.

He continued: “Any levy paid has to be spent within two years, but it is estimated that due to the challenges of the apprenticeship reforms it is likely that around £2.5m will be spent in the first year on approximately 1,300 new apprenticeships.

“This leaves an incredible amount of potentially unspent money being lost to Greater Manchester. We are already showing how we are moving faster and further than anyone else as we look to make our city-region the best place to grow up, get on and grow old. This money, as part of a wider devolution package, could prove vital in helping both our young people and us to achieve our aims.”

Andy’s call came as a report was published by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) which highlights the effect of Brexit on Greater Manchester. 

You can read the report here. 

The GMCA report uses the Government’s own assessment to show the potential cost which could be imposed on key sectors of the Greater Manchester economy when the UK leaves the EU.

The report highlights four key areas which require joint work between Greater Manchester and the Government to ensure the English regions aren’t left behind following Brexit:

  1. Free up devolved administrations to deal with domestic issues, particularly making the skills system more responsive to local employers – With the potential impact of Brexit on the skills available to firms, devolution should be progressed to develop a local coherent skills system which includes apprenticeships, technical education & careers so that all residents have a clear line of sight to the growth potential that Greater Manchester brings.
  2. Regional analysis – The Government must carry out with Greater Manchester rigorous regional sectoral analysis that will measure the impact of Brexit on regional economies.
  3. A voice for the North of England in Brexit negotiations- The Mayor of London, devolved administrations and a committee with the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands can currently have their say on Brexit in Whitehall - but there is no permanent seat at the table for the North of England.
  4. Devolve EU powers - As powers are returned from the EU, it is crucial that the process does not end at Westminster.  Regions should be given more powers to harness the opportunities of Brexit.