We need fair devolution

Wales and Scotland have a devolved assembly/parliament and a single tier of local government. Northern Ireland could have if their politicians would sit down and agree a programme of government instead of playing yahoo politics.

In England there is no serious devolution and the system of local government is a dog’s breakfast with elected mayors, police commissioners, the London assembly and a wide range of councils with different powers.

Yet a working party in the Liberal Democrats has managed to come up with an even bigger mess than currently exists because they won’t argue for radical change.

‘Devolution on demand’ is a recipe for years of argument, disagreement and no action. Does anyone seriously believe that holding referenda on whether an area wants devolution will lead to a successful vote? Of course not. The anti politician brigade will be in full cry and the claim that it’s just another obstacle to people doing what they want will be pushed to stop it. No! If we want devolution, we should say so and legislate for it once we get the chance. Look at any country with a proper federal system (and our brave working party don’t even utter that word) and you will see that their devolved governmental units have common powers and that they are entrenched in the constitution.

Now I accept that there needs to be discussion about the boundaries of the devolved government for England, even though I personally favour a parliament for Yorkshire. What is wholly undesirable is different powers in different regions, because that is a recipe for total confusion.

The motion (listed below) that is coming to conference is about as weak as it’s possible to be in its commitment to devolution. No mention of a manifesto commitment to legislate, just a continuation of the old policy of waiting for people to ask.

Is the motion satisfactorily amendable? I don’t think so because it is widely believed that FCC won’t allow amendments that substantially alter a motion, only those that tinker with it. There are to be amendments put forward to lines 42-45 the section that deals with devolution in an attempt to make it means real change, but failing that the whole thing may need referring back to get this radical Liberal decentralisation of power sorted out satisfactorily.

F8 Power for People and Communities (Local Government and Community Empowerment Policy Paper)

Federal Policy Committee
Mover: Wera Hobhouse MP (Spokesperson on Communities and Local Government).
Summation: Cllr Tim Pickstone (Chair of the Policy Working Group).

Conference notes that in the preamble to the constitution we commit to enabling all citizens to “contribute fully to their communities and to take part in the decisions which affect their lives”.

Conference believes that:

  1. Community is the arena in which individuals are able to co-operate with others to achieve their personal and shared goals.
  2. Democratically elected local government is the key public institution which enables local communities to work effectively together.
  3. Voluntary community action is also essential to creating a vibrant civic culture, both to express local communities based on place and non-geographic communities of interest.

Conference regrets, however, that in England government is highly centralised, with central government having far more power relative to lower tiers of government than in almost any comparable democracy, and its attempts to micromanage local decisions and delivery of local services frequently lead to ineffectiveness, waste and a feeling of alienation and disempowerment.

Conference further regrets the inadequate progress towards a devolved tier of democratic government within England, with serious consequences for the uneven economic and social development of the regions of England.

Conference resolves that a Liberal Democrat vision for the empowerment of people and communities in England should be based on the principles of:

  1. Decisions being made at the lowest practicable level.
  2. Openness.
  3. Inclusivity.
  4. Representative elections.
  5. Financial empowerment of democratically elected authorities.

Conference therefore welcomes Policy Paper 130, Power for People and Communities, as a statement of Liberal Democrat policy, and in particular welcomes its proposals to:

1. Devolve power to the lowest practicable level by:

  1. Removing barriers to the creation of additional Parish and Town Councils, as well as of neighbourhood forums in areas that so choose.
  2. Strengthening the powers of principal local authorities over key areas such as education, health and care, transport, planning, housing and the environment.
  3. Abolishing the role of Police and Crime Commissioners.
  4. Aiming for the creation of a democratically elected devolved tier across England to be achieved by the end of the next Parliament, using existing local authority areas as the building blocks.
  5. Ultimately locking in the new settlement for England as part of a Written Constitution for the UK as a whole.

2. Make local government fit for the future by:

  1. Introducing elections by the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member constituencies for all levels of local government.
  2. Increasing the openness of decision making, including by requiring webcasting of all council meetings and strengthening transparency rules on council-owned companies and planning decisions on council owned land.
  3. Increasing the inclusivity of councils by supporting the use of all-women and all-disabled shortlists as a way of correcting underrepresentation as already provided for by law, and legislating to allow for all-BAME shortlists.
  4. Encouraging the use of deliberative consultation methods such as Citizen’s Juries.
  5. Strengthening the role of individual councillors, for example by giving them a formal right to hold service providers to account in their own ward.
  6. Empowering Councils over their own finances, including by ending the current capping regime, giving them enhanced powers to call on new income sources appropriate to their area which should be linked to local activities and support local services and investment, and by giving them enhanced borrowing powers, including the power to borrow to enable and deliver housing and required local infrastructure.

3. Strengthen the community and voluntary sector by:

  1. Updating and renewing the Compact between Government and the Voluntary Sector.
  2. Implementing the recommendations of Lord Hodgson’s review of the Lobbying Act (only applying regulations to campaigns intended to influence votes for candidates).
  3. Seeking a better balance between ‘payment by results’ contracts and grant funding, to allow some costs of voluntary organisations to be supported.
  4. Amending the Social Value Act so that service commissioners have to ‘take into account’ rather than just ‘have regard to’ social value in procurement decisions.

* Dr Michael Taylor has been a party member since 1964. He is currently living in Greece.

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  • Gareth Young 23rd Aug '18 - 11:54am

    Fairness dictates that England has its own national parliament, government and first minister.

  • John Marriott 23rd Aug '18 - 11:57am

    I don’t know where Dr Michael Taylor currently is on his ‘round the world trip’; but he must be sufficiently far enough away from these shores to have missed the recent LDV ‘debate’ on this very matter, in which I played a part. As far as his contribution, which would appear to include the Motion to Conference, is concerned, the Bee Gees once sang; “It’s only words”; in fact too many words in my humble opinion.

    Much of what Dr Taylor writes makes eminent sense; but he is merely trying to reinvent the wheel, as some of us cottoned on to the need for English Devolution a long time ago. As far as the Motion to Conference from Messrs Hobhouse and Pickstone is concerned, I can see now why I tend to treat conferences on a par with catching the plague, namely, to be avoided at all costs.

    All those wonderful words could be condensed into a short paragraph On the lines of:

    ‘This conference supports the creation of (number) English Regions, giving them each the same powers and local government structure as exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It also supports transforming the Westminster Parliament into a U.K. Federal Parliament, directly elected by Proportional Representation in accordance with the population size of each of the Regions/Nations with a revising Second Chamber made up of nominees from the previously mentioned Regions/Nations.’

    Every other ‘pledge’ may indeed have merit; but, if ever enacted, would make those tasked with implementing them hostages to fortune.

    Enjoy the remainder of your ‘trip’, Doctor Taylor. I wish I could join you at times!

  • Please see the altered description. Sadly I have been back for a year now and am aware of the debate. I agree with your short para. Sadly the wordsmiths who crafted the paper and the resolution (and indeed current party policy on ‘devolution on demand’) do not. One might have hoped they had learned from the EU referendum that you don’t get what you want through that route.
    When our Liberal Party predecessors envisaged devolution for Scotland and Wales in 1912 they were going to enact it through Parliament. If WW1 had not happened we would by now be celebrating 100 years of devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales and probably the regions of England.
    @Gareth Young. No No No!!! An English parliament would be far too big and would totally outweigh the other devolved bodies. That’s why historically the Liberal Party and its successors have always talked in terms of regional devolution. Yorkshire for example is not dissimilar in terms of population and income to Scotland.

  • I’ve not seen someone play the man rather than the ball that impressively since Graeme Souness was at the heart of Liverpool’s midfield.

  • William Fowler 23rd Aug '18 - 12:58pm

    “Fairness dictates that England has its own national parliament, government and first minister.”

    Yes agree with this but then you would have a much smaller main UK parliament (may as well relocate that as well as the building is falling down) or perhaps a virtual parliament made up of the four parts of the UK’s MPs rather than two set of MPs (perhaps having one or two days a week for national stuff and three or four days for local stuff?). Would the House of Lords still be needed as you would have the national parliament as the second house to the individual parliaments?

    The underlying rule should be that for every new MP created two of the old lot would be discarded so that you get a much smaller political class rather than an expanded one, which would be a disaster for the populace as all they can do to justify their extravagant salaries and tax free expenses is pass endless laws.

  • Innocent Bystander 23rd Aug '18 - 1:52pm

    Can’t find the word tax. If you are unable to explain how Surrey taxation gets through devolution to Liverpool then more capable intellects will do it for you.
    Other than that it’s the time honoured, and time ignored, English devolution blether.
    If an independent Yorkshire expects the prosperous South East to fund it’s projects it will be sent away with a flea in its ear. Behold devolution.

  • Mick Taylor 23rd Aug '18 - 3:22pm

    Innocent (?) bystander. Tax would continue to be redistributed as it is now by the national government. Now it’s done by the much criticised ‘Barnet Formula’ and Scotland and Wales do indeed get a chunk of money probably mainly paid in taxes in the SE, as do local councils through their funding formula. It would be no different with regional devolution. The difference would be that much more tax would be raised regionally with regional assemblies and local councils raising much more of their own revenue. or at least that is what advocates of regional devolution have always argued for.
    Sorry William Fowler, our party and its predecessor have ruled out an English tier of government on every occasion it has been debated. See my previous comment about size and balance. My first conference in 1967 in Edinburgh saw an impassioned debate with Jo Grimond, no less, weighing in for an English Parliament – and losing.

  • John Marriott 23rd Aug '18 - 3:32pm

    @William Fowler
    I ‘m surprised you, like others, having fallen for that old red herring of an ‘English Parliament’. If this were to happen, those of us up here would still feel remote from London. Do you understand the idea of a Federal UK implicit in all the proposals for Devolution that actually make sense. Your idea of a ‘virtual parliament’ or of a body spending three days out of five on “local stuff” and two on “national stuff” (interesting choice of noun, possibly betraying a less than enthusiastic view of politicians in general – or am I being paranoid?) could well produce the kind of ‘dual hatted’ politicians often encountered in the two tier version of local government still surviving in many parts of England.
    @(far from) Innocent Bystander
    Death and taxes – you just can’t escape ‘em, I’m afraid. Please allow me to ‘blether’ a little more. As in Canada, for example, the Federal UK government would set an Income Tax rate to cover expenditure on things like defence, international commitments, foreign affairs, major investment etc., while the Regions/Nations would levy a local income tax and an element of property or land value tax to cover expenditure on Health, Education, Infrastructure etc. What it really boils down to is the willingness to trust local people, politicians and, above all, local civil servants, to step up to the plate. If they get it wrong, then they can surely be punished at the ballot box.
    And finally..
    If your rather caustic remark was aimed at me, it would carry more weight if we know from whom it actually came. Mind you, as your chosen ‘nom de plume’ states, you are apparently no longer ‘one of us’.

  • Innocent Bystander 23rd Aug '18 - 3:37pm

    Your answer was clear but unworkable. The Barnett formula is much despised rather than criticised. To invoke one for Yorkshire will take some selling down south. The break up of England will trigger antagonism exactly because the funding can’t be both the same as it is now and also different.
    It will not be accepted that Yorkshire will have more powers to spend someone else’s money.

  • Innocent Bystander 23rd Aug '18 - 3:49pm

    Mick and Mikw, help yourself to the devolution debate but your dismissal of the tax and spend question betrays, if you allow me, a little naivety. It will dominate the debate (although there is unlikely to be a national one) because many Barnett formulae or the provinces pay their own way out of local taxes are both dead ends

  • Lorenzo Cherin 23rd Aug '18 - 4:32pm

    A decent article that goes as ever too far in the condemning of our leadership and working volunteers in group input needed and welcome.

    The motion does not appear to back regional assemblies or is this there and too vague to read?! They are a terrible idea and not a form of devolution for liberals or Liberals, certainly not democrats or Democrats, rejected as nonsense in ballots already under Prescott. People , especially in an era of identity as very political, much too much in my and most people’s view, do identify in ways that are understandable.

    I do not feel it odd that people in Yorkshire feel this as their regional identity. But why is Yorkshire on a par with Wales or even Scotland as a form of nationhood, rather than with Nottinghamshire or Hampshire as a regional area?

    The view of the author happily herein wants consistency. Get that in this party and you believe in fairies, and Father Christmas?!

    We should do what the US do, have consistency throughout the land. Every county should have a form of assembly, every city a directly elected mayor and cabinet, every town and city some form of council.

    Thee is indeed an identity that is based on a locality.

    There is no comparing Nottinghamshire with the East Midlands! And certainly not for those lovely very humble folk in…Yorkhire!

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Aug '18 - 4:37pm

    John Marriott 23rd Aug ’18 – 3:32pm
    “the Federal UK government would set an Income Tax rate to cover expenditure on things like defence, international commitments, foreign affairs, major investment etc., while the Regions/Nations would levy a local income tax and an element of property or land value tax to cover expenditure on Health, Education, Infrastructure etc.”

    In other words, all subsidy from the richer south to the poorer regions to the north and west would end. Thereby, as I’m sure Peter Martin will shortly rush in to point out, ensuring that the serious flaws of the Euro project (currency union without redistribution) are inflicted on the UK. Even Mick Taylor proposes that the transfer of resources in the current system will be continued under devolution; but the evidence of the Scottish experience is that separating out real power makes the transfer of taxes more obvious and less politically acceptable – it remains to be seen whether the Barnett formula can survive the resentment of England much longer.

  • Malcolm Todd 23rd Aug '18 - 4:41pm

    As a matter of interest, in the highly federal USA, the federal (i.e. national) government collects over 60% of all revenue, and is responsible for about 50% of all spending: https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/what-breakdown-tax-revenues-among-federal-state-and-local-governments

  • John Marriott 23rd Aug '18 - 5:03pm

    Dear Mr Bystander,
    In the event of ‘Mick’ and ‘Mickw’ (?) failing to answer your question on tax, please allow me to present an alternative scenario. It might be over simple, I admit, and it might not satisfy you; but I am no financial expert.

    The current Basic Rate of Income Tax is at 20%. Some of us would like to see it a good bit higher all round; but let’s stick to reality. For that princely sum (not forgetting the higher rates, which probably raise a lot more, together with the proceeds from the Uniform Business Rate and assorted revenues), the government returns, or did until the recent austerity drive, funds through grant to local authorities, while at the same time applying a damping formula (aka ‘smoke and mirrors’) to level out discrepancies between areas. Yes, Scotland and certain urban areas do well out of this, rural areas like mine not so well.

    Of course there’s also the totally out of date Council Tax, which now is being used to raise increasing amounts of revenue to offset the massive reductions in government grant; but that’s about it. Hopefully, with any major reform of the way we are governed, that would be replaced with something that at least took account of an individual’s ability to pay.

    Under a truly devolved federal system, while HMRC would still collect income tax, far less of the 20% etc would end up in the Whitehall black hole and the remainder would be retained regionally and locally. Sorry, Nicola, no more ‘Barnett Formula’, it’s time for you to stand on your own feet. However, because the tax take will vary from region to region, and local government area to local government area, as it does now, the Federal and Regional governments will have to retain the discretion to ‘top up’ areas (a bit like what happens now with ‘damping’) from the taxes they levy.

    I do hope that this goes some way to explaining how it might work. It’s not perfect by any means; but it really could put the emphasis on local people and their institutions to deliver what they want, instead of allowing them the knee jerk reaction of blaming ‘remote southern politicians’ for their problems.

  • Mick Taylor 23rd Aug '18 - 7:50pm

    John Marriott. What is damping , except the `Barnet formula’? As I said earlier the topup of poorer areas by richer areas would continue as now. That’s what overall economic management is about (amongst other things). Interestingly the original Liberal Party document ‘Power to the Provinces’ proposed that income tax should be collected by regional authorities and other authorities both local government and national would precept on the regions. Certainly food for thought.

  • John Marriott 23rd Aug '18 - 9:36pm

    @Mick Taylor
    The term ‘Damping’ may be something with which those with no experience at first hand of local government finance may not be familiar. You may not be one of them; but for those that are not, it’s also called ‘Floors and Ceilings’ and by some cynics ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ and is a device used by Whitehall to make sure that, in the event of a redistribution of grants, robbing Peter to pay Paul does not occur. We in Lincolnshire have been the victims of this calculation on several occasions. So, instead of getting £X million in grants we were entitled to, we ended up with £X- Y million instead.

    The infamous Barnett Formula, named after the late Joel and not, as some may think from your spelling, the local authority, which some in the know might be next in line after Northants and possibly East Sussex for insolvency, was designed to make sure that the other nations of the U.K. were not adversely affected by changes in spending in public services in the U.K. as a whole. It certaining couldn’t be classed as ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’.

    Part of any tax receipts taken up by a putative Federal Government would be used to make sure that those areas where incomes were generally lower did not lose out in terms of potential local public expenditure to those richer areas. I hope this satisfies Malcolm Todd as well.

  • Innocent Bystander 23rd Aug '18 - 10:50pm

    “It’s not perfect by any means;”
    That’s some understatement.
    Malcolm’s ” separating out real power makes the transfer of taxes more obvious and less politically acceptable”
    explains the issue better than I did and will be sufficient explanation why this latest proposal will founder as have all its predecessors.
    Devolution means devolution and your proposal that Yorkshire will take control of Surrey’s tax, but not the other way round is as dead a concept as it always has been. The “Federal” government will have a serious challenge on its hands getting the South East to fund the rest “They wanted to stand on their own, they said they didn’t want us, well they can whistle for our money” will be the obvious, immediate and justified retort.

  • William Fowler 24th Aug '18 - 7:50am

    So the flaw in regional devolution is that the poorer parts of the country won’t be able to raise enough tax in their actual area so much better to have the four parliaments plus the UK one. The latter could be funded by VAT (130 billion) whilst the four parliaments would have income tax and NI so that voters would have a direct relationship between what they pay and the kind of society in which they live. I think an income tax surcharge applied to all income (and benefits) to cover the cost of servicing the national debt would also be an interesting idea, a reality check on the madness of the Brown/Blair years, it could even be named a Brown tax.

  • If anyone is interested in amending F8 please contact me (see my post on the General Forum)

  • Yorkshire having a Parliament of its own with powers equal to Holyrood’s would not make Scotland any less a nation.

    England not having a Parliament within a federal UK would not make England any less a nation.

    If people would not play cheap identity politics and tackle the needs of sensible structures of government given the odd balance of home nations we are lumbered with, perhaps we might get somewhere.

  • I’ve tackled the question of an English Parliament several times on the Liberal Democrat Federalists Facebook group page. We are where we are, with an England 85% of the UK. To have an English Parliament makes no structural sense – and see above for the simple truth about national identity. An English Parliament would be as exactly remote as our current national parliament. It could be nothing but a pointless extra tier, creating more hatred than love with “yet more politicians”.

    England desperately needs a tier government closer to people but a sensible distance above our current county tier, and with a unitary system below that, there could easily be *fewer* but better politicians with power move substantially downwards from Westminster.

    From a federal purist’s point of view there is a good reason for some sort of England-only government. This is because the Scottish legal system is separate from England’s – but this doesn’t apply to Wales. We don’t want West Lothian Questions everywhere with MPs voting on things that are devolved in their own part of the country but not elsewhere. A purist would say that all federal states should have the same powers devolved to solve that issue but I can’t imagine anyone saying we should devolve legal systems to English regions!

    However, if the number of issues to which this problem is limited *only* to the legal justice system, would anyone seriously propose a full-blown parliament just for the purpose of legislating on it? There are other ways to skin a cat. A proper federal UK would be highly likely to have some constitutional asymmetry thanks to England’s excessive size.

  • Lorenzo Cherin laments above the criticisms of the volunteers on the Working Group.

    Three members of the group have already spoken against the Paper – one with an article on here. Another of them openly expressed support for a Reference Back.

    The third said on a Facebook group that “progress was badly disrupted by the general election and we effectively didn’t meet for nine months, by which time time pressure meant that a draft paper was produced purely by the policy staff and presented in January as more or less a fait accomplis.”

    The above is pretty disturbing if it’s accurate, and it’s likely no reflection on the dedication of many of those individuals.

  • Innocent Bystander 24th Aug '18 - 8:35am

    It came as no surprise to read Mr Kilpatrick’s description of a meandering and dissent ridden working group.
    The English will never permit their nation to be Balkanised, broken up and destroyed.
    My language is mild compared to the reaction this proposal would receive if it ever attracted attention on a wider stage than this very tiny political grouping.
    It won’t, of course, because like all the dozens of previous attempts it will just be ignored.

  • Blimey, Innocent Bystander, you are rambling. Balkanised… You’re just playing silly identity politics and getting het up about nothing. Sell the right idea, and the English will happily allow some boundaries for regional administration of the country without England in any way ceasing to be England.

  • And the group wasn’t meandering or dissent ridden. It barely met and so, it seems (I infer from what I was told) that soneone directed the situation to provide a paper for autumn even though the group wasn’t ready. This is a far cry from what you describe.

  • Innocent Bystander 24th Aug '18 - 9:28am

    ” It barely met”
    Love it! Love it!
    The funniest bit was
    “Yorkshire having a Parliament of its own with powers equal to Holyrood’s ”
    I asked my wife (a Lancashire Lass with a wicked sense of humour) for suggestions for Yorkshire’s version of the Saltire flag and ‘Flower of Scotland’ anthem but although I laughed I can’t repeat them here.

    As to English acceptance, if it’s just ‘Super Counties’ with just more bins to empty and roads to mend and the elimination of lots of officials and politicians then they might give it a hearing (I emphasise might). If it proposes the break up of England into mini-Scotlands then it won’t receive the respect of a minute’s attention and will die on the forgotten margins like (as I have repeatedly said) all of the numerous identical proposals already have.

  • John Marriott 24th Aug '18 - 9:41am

    So, Mr Bystander, having rubbished everything that has been suggested, what’s YOUR answer, then? Or are you happy with the way things are? Because many of us are NOT!

  • Innocent Bystander 24th Aug '18 - 10:06am

    I am sorry that you are unhappy with England as a national entity but life is full of disappointments.

    You wouldn’t dismiss the Scottish national spirit as “silly identity politics”, you wouldn’t dare. Would you suggest that a new region incorporating Dumfries and Galloway combined with Cumbria or The Scottish Borders with Northumberland?
    Would the Scots ” happily allow some boundaries for regional administration of the country”? Any such suggestion would receive short shrift indeed.
    Why is England so valueless that it can be dispersed into mini-Holyroods along artificial boundaries that have never existed before?

    The proposal will not receive national criticism because ” It barely met” shows that not even the people who are interested are actually interested.

  • Philip Knowles 24th Aug '18 - 10:25am

    I don’t know about Yorkshire as a whole but North Yorkshire is a net exporter of tax. The Mayor of London doesn’t seem to have any problem spending my money on Crossrail with a budget per head over 10 times that of Yorkshire and Humber.
    It possibly explains why a Londoner (and in Scotland and Wales) of my age gets a free bus pass when I have to wait another 6 years. Mind you there aren’t any useable buses to use it on.

  • Daniel Walker 24th Aug '18 - 10:33am

    @Innocent Bystander “suggestions for Yorkshire’s version of the Saltire flag and ‘Flower of Scotland’ anthem but although I laughed I can’t repeat them here.”

    For reference, we already have a flag (as, indeed, does Lancashire), and the only anthem I’ve heard suggested is On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at. I certainly wouldn’t expect any other song to be in the running…

  • John Marriott 24th Aug '18 - 11:37am

    @(Far from)Innocent Bystander
    When I look at my own loyalties, in no particular order, first comes Leicester, where I spent the first 18 years of my life before going to university, then the East Midlands, where, apart for four years working abroad and three years working in Yorkshire, I have lived for most of my life, then England (1966 and all that) followed by Great Britain (Olympics etc.) and then, yes, Europe (culture/heritage). I’m proud to be a part of them all.

    The problem that I and several LDV contributors have been trying to grapple with is how do you make all of these entities work for the good of the majority rather than the minority. As ‘Europe’ is very much in flux at the moment (at least as far as the Brits are concerned) we need to concentrate on the U.K. If you believe in Devolution, as I do, it’s a numbers game really. If you don’t divide England into more or less equal parts in terms of population then, by its sheer geographic and population size, it will inevitably dominate any federal structure that might emerge.

    The problem with creating regions in England is where to draw the boundaries and to make sure that no region, by dint of economic power, can dominate any other. Put simply, Devolution has got to mean fair shares for all. How you achieve this is the $64000 question, as they used to say, before inflation took off. Take Lincolnshire, where I live. Living near Lincoln, with the Notts border only 12 miles away, I feel part of the East Midlands. However, if I lived in, say Gainsborough, I might have more affinity with Yorkshire. Similarly, if I lived in Spalding, I might feel more at home as part of East Anglia. Not easy, hey?

    By the way, nobody is talking about slicing up Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland again. All three already have their equivalent of ‘Regional Assemblies, although N Ireland’s is currently on the back burner, and below them Unitary and Neighbourhood Councils. It’s England, with its miss mash of Unitaries, County, District and Town/Parish Councils, not forgetting Regional Mayors etc., which is in desperate need of restructuring.

  • Innocent Bystander 24th Aug '18 - 1:33pm

    Scotland and Wales do not “have” Regional Assemblies” they have National Assemblies. I am certain that Scotland would dismiss outright any form of devolution below that (note they already have with respect to Orkney and Shetland).
    I am not really an obstructionist but the question will not go away.
    What is the motive? Is it better bin collections and pothole filling? Or is it (be honest) to fragment England into mini states (of the same size as Scotland) in order to reduce the current asymmetry of the UK?
    If the latter be prepared to be on the losing side. English nationalism may not be as vocal as others but try telling the Scots or the Irish that they are showing “silly identity politics”. The English are just as passionate, just less vocal. The tax and spend problem is also glossed over but all mechanisms proposed are non starters.
    I apologise but I find it risible not serious. Amongst the great anthems of the world ” Flower of Scotland”, “O, Canada”, ” N’kosi Sikelele Africa” the thought of strains of “then ducks will come and eat up worms” reduces me (and my Lancashire wife) to hysterics.

  • John Marriott 24th Aug '18 - 6:42pm

    Dear Mr ‘Bystander,
    Nobody is thinking of reducing the power of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. It’s just that, in terms of population alone, they are no bigger than any region you, or I, might come up with. That’s why I have put the Nations and Regions of the U.K. into the same category.

    As far as England is concerned, it’s not just about “better bin collections and pothole filling” – these are the jobs of local government. It’s about environmental protection, major infrastructure projects, more responsive health and social care, education, housing and job creation, to name just a few items that cater better for local needs when decisions are taken locally. At the moment, as far as England is concerned, most of these depend mainly on the largesse of central government in London.

    You can mask your opposition to any proposals in sarcasm, if you wish. I just wonder whether you have really understood what this particular thread is about. However, if you took the trouble to read more carefully what some of us are proposing instead of basing your arguments solely on the prospect of a stand alone Yorkshire region, which might not be an option anyway, it might be worth continuing this particular debate.

  • At least I know what a dog’s breakfast is now. The motion says nothing about devolution on demand that I actually like though presumably it partly lead to Catalonia’s challenges. The motion has some good stuff in though it is diluted by some paragraphs that should have been left in the policy paper. I think a full constitutional convention that applies just to England is the best way of dealing with our current situation. If the people do not demand a change, it’s risky for politicians to impose one. What we need is more awareness of our current mess and how it could be improved.

  • David Evershed 26th Aug '18 - 7:20pm

    What we need are increased powers for local councils.

    What we don’t need are any more tiers of government.

    Stop complicating things.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Aug '18 - 8:11pm

    Goodness me where have you been David Evershed? The party has been committed to devolution for over 100 years!
    That’s not incompatible with more powers for local councils. On the contrary, every Lib real/Lib Dem plan for devolution includes more power for local councils. Devolution is about getting power away from Westminster and having a structure where power is exercised at the lowest possible level. Regional tiers would have overall responsibility for powers now exercised in Westminster, like Health, Social Care, education, transport, housing, police, fire. Local councils would run functions like education, housing, public transport, social care within the guidelines laid down by the region. Overall policy would no longer be set at the centre but by the region, but the functions would be run by local councils. Westminster (which could be drastically reduced in size) would retain defence, overall economic policy and foreign policy and would operate equalisation between regions as now.
    And just to make sure the powers of councils and regions could not be arbitrarily changed by Westminster the Party is committed to a written constitution which would codify and guarantee the powers of devolved units. It is easy to forget that as things stand Westminster could abolish the Scottish parliament, the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies at a stroke if the government can get a majority for it in parliament.

  • “what we need is more funding for local councils”
    The trouble is that to some extent that is in the hands of local councils themselves; it is notable that much of Northamptonshire County Council’s current woes are due to it not increasing council tax over several years and then being creative about how the budget gets balanced…

  • Neil Sandison 30th Aug '18 - 9:52am

    Readng through the motion it appears to be more about devolving of power than devolution and perhaps that is not a bad thing .I am a bit of a local history buff and looking at how my town developed showed me the local health and sanitation boards had more power and ability to shape my town and district than our current district council which is held back and bogged down by central government fiscal control and guidance designed to fit all and with very little ability to meet local circumstances .So perhaps this document should be redefined as devolving power to the community .

  • Simon Banks 5th Nov '18 - 1:25pm

    Why does fairness dictate that England should have its own assembly etc? Why would it be unfair for similar powers to be exercised by English regions? New England doesn’t have its own assembly or governor because powers are exercised at US state level. What would be wrong with a similar settlement in England?

    Creating a federal structure in which one unit is far bigger than the rest put together is a recipe for unfairness as decisions taken purely in the big unit strongly impact on the small ones.

    Agree devolution on demand would create a mess.

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