The Independent View: Rumble in the Jungle as Cable takes on Tarzan

After all the warm words and soft soap on Lord Heseltine’s No Stone Unturned report, in an interview with The Northern Echo, Business Secretary Vince Cable broke ranks this week and poured cold water on any great hopes of any significant new devolution deal.

In the Budget in March the Chancellor of the Exchequer offered general approval for Heseltine’s plans stating that more details of the government’s response, not least the amount of departmental funding that would be channelled into the Single Local Growth Fund, would be announced in June’s Spending Review.

Heseltine has identified departmental funding pots to the tune of nearly £50 billion which he has argued should be devolved to Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas; but Cable has confirmed what many cynics suspected, that such sums are pie in the sky. The Business Secretary’s principle argument is that LEPs simply don’t have the capacity or the desire to be responsible for such large sums of money. This is true but it is also ironic given that it was Mr Cable himself who, together with Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, ordained that LEPs should be such powerless, ‘light touch’ bodies.

Vince Cable may also be right that handing such large amounts of public funding to an unelected body would be inappropriate too. But a lack of democratic accountability should not foreclose an argument for greater devolution. For a start, the lion’s share of his departmental funding continues to be handed to research bodies, quangos and catapult centres; rarely does anybody question their accountability or transparency.

But it is also the case that in Greater Manchester, Greater Leeds, the North East and elsewhere, ‘combined authorities’ are emerging with all the legal status necessary to receive large sums of public money and with a degree of public accountability. We would like to see them go further with metro mayors where that model suits, but if Cable really wanted to devolve key aspects of public funding, he could easily find a way without having to hand it over to LEPs alone.

But, whilst the Business Secretary seemed keen to cling on to precious departmental funds at the centre, he also hit out at Heseltine for not being radical enough! Pointing beyond the need for decentralised hand-outs from London, Cable argued for greater tax and borrowing powers for local councils. This is something IPPR North has long supported but fiscal decentralisation is no quick fix either, as the Scottish example demonstrates, for Scotland has never used these powers that it has been granted.

This may appear a storm in a teacup, but come 26 June and the Spending Review announcement, if Cable is right, Tarzan may just roar for one last time.

* Ed Cox is Director of IPPR North.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds and The Independent View.
Bookmark the web address for this page or use the short url http://ldv.org.uk/34385 for Twitter and emails.
Advert

3 Comments

  • jenny barnes 6th May '13 - 8:48am

    “catapult centres”? what is that?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarAllan 27th Nov - 1:17am
    @ David But secondly, also be prepared to confront the EU. That does not mean threatening to leave, but it does mean gently pointing out...
  • User AvatarConor McGovern 27th Nov - 1:12am
    @Charlie - What happens of the media spin it? If it were Christian terrorists, would their religion be brought up on the news and by...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 27th Nov - 1:05am
    "They have all of this mega-technology already, they currently use it to read your posts and target massive mega-advertising at you!" Yes, and that's easy....
  • User AvatarAmalric 27th Nov - 1:00am
    I hope we will make it are our policy that we will restrict in-work benefits including housing benefit. I would say immigrants can only receive...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 27th Nov - 12:48am
    The key problem is that Nigel has the clearest and most convincing narrative - simply, that Britain cannot control immigration from the EU unless it...
  • User AvatarCharlie 27th Nov - 12:35am
    Conor McGovern What happens if muslim terrorists take hostages in a school or cinema ( as in Russia ): what do we say to the...