What Lib Dem members think about devolution – and what their local priorities would be

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Almost 600 party members responded to this set of questions – thank you – in a supplementary poll ran just before the party conference.

Majorities say Education and NHS should be governed at local/regional level

Which of the following should be decided mainly at a local/regional level? (Please tick all that apply)

    Education – 70%
    NHS – 57%
    Welfare – 42%
    Environment – 41%
    Business and trade policy – 31%
    Income tax rates – 29%
    Criminal justice – 14%
    Defence – 1%
    Foreign policy – 0%
    None of these, all should be mainly UK-level – 17%
    Other – 7%
    Don’t know – 1%

Clear majorities of Lib Dem members like the idea of decisions to do with both education (70%) and health (57%) being decided at a local/regional level. Significant minorities support policies on welfare (42%) and the environment (41%) being decided there, too. There is less support for economic matters (business and trade, income tax) being devolved, nor for matters of criminal justice. Hardly any Lib Dems like the idea of defence or foreign policy being decided at local level. Of the 7% who selected ‘Other’, transport and housing/planning were the issues most frequently mentioned.

90% want cities to have greater powers

To what extent do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?

I would support greater power for local government to affect change in UK cities:

    Strongly Agree – 55%
    Agree – 35%
    Total agree = 90%
    Disagree – 5%
    Strongly Disagree – 2%
    Total disagree = 7%
    Don’t know – 4%

I am confident that the interests of UK cities are well represented at the national level

    Strongly Agree – 2%
    Agree – 11%
    Total agree = 13%
    Disagree – 59%
    Strongly Disagree – 17%
    Total disagree = 76%
    Don’t know – 12%

I am confident that local politicians have the powers they need to boost my local economy

    Strongly Agree – 1%
    Agree – 7%
    Total agree = 8%
    Disagree – 51%
    Strongly Disagree – 31%
    Total disagree = 82%
    Don’t know – 10%

I do not believe politicians at national level understand what UK cities need to prosper

    Strongly Agree – 21%
    Agree – 43%
    Total agree = 64%
    Disagree – 17%
    Strongly Disagree – 3%
    Total disagree = 20%
    Don’t know – 15%

I believe that local government needs greater power to meet the needs of UK cities

    Strongly Agree – 45%
    Agree – 41%
    Total agree = 86%
    Disagree – 5%
    Strongly Disagree – 3%
    Total disagree = 8%
    Don’t know – 6%

Lib Dem members’ top priority for their local area: “Delivering more affordable housing”

Following the General Election in May 2015, which of the following would you like the next Government to prioritise in your local area?

We asked those we survey to rank the following five policies in their order of priority. These are the results when ranked in order using an STV election, re-run each time for the additional number of required “seats”:

    1. Delivering more affordable housing (245 first preferences)
    2. Creating more and better jobs (105)
    3. Improving education and training (78)
    4. Improving public transport (81)
    5. Supporting local businesses to grow and prosper (77)

“Delivering more affordable housing” polls well ahead of the other four priorities for Lib Dem members — more than twice as many opted for it over “Creating more and better jobs”. As Mark Pack has repeatedly pointed out, though, this is at odds with the priorities of the voting public.

  • 1,500+ Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 586 completed the latest survey, which was conducted on 2nd and 3rd October.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll
  • * Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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    10 Comments

    • A little disappointed about welfare. I’d have thought more would appreciate that since economic circumstances vary so much from region to region, there ought to be a chunk of welfare that is decided more locally rather than having one size fits all nationwide welfare that does not satisfy those in high cost areas. Coupling Stephen’s earlier ideas for LVT and Citizens Income, the obvious thing is to have the one fund the other as Henry George suggested, at a local level, with only exceptional top ups from more centralised sources.

    • Eddie Sammon 25th Oct '14 - 11:33am

      There isn’t a single reason why a land value tax is better than a net asset tax, so liberals should stop a 100 year old campaign that has never caught fire and move onto something else.

      It doesn’t matter if the supply of land is limited, so is the supply of oil and gold, and time, it’s not fair to just tax landowners much more than anything else, as though they have committed a crime for buying land.

      It’s not directly on topic, but sometimes the comments are more important.

    • On Topic

      Most of the things that “create more and better jobs” – the rule of law, a reliable currency, reducing tariffs on trade, reliable utilities and so on are determined nationally or internationally. Whilst sub-national bodies might promote good transport links and good education and training which also help they might also be tempted down the path Labour tried and failed in the 1960s and endeavour to pick “winning” firms [where is British Leyland now?] raising taxes but without, in the end, creating jobs.

      Off topic

      Whilst the financial value of all assets depends on their position in economic society land is argued to be special. LVT is a tax on the unimproved value of land. Much of this value comes from the work of others – for instance its proximity to transport links; the planning permission granted for the land and so on. This is the single reason why a land value tax is better than a net asset tax.

    • Some stupid questions in this poll, I’m afraid. It’s all well and good asking leading questions about devolution which only mention cities, but you force the respondents to ignore completely those parts of the UK which happen not to be cities.

      Do I have to remind Lib Dems for the umpteenth time that the Eastern Region has a population and an economy larger than that of Scotland yet it does not have any citites in the largest top 20 by population in the UK?

      Clearly I do have to remind you, as this questionnaire seems to perpetuate the current fad for “city regions” which relegates everyone who is not in a city to a second-class British citizen.

    • Another word of caution about devolution. It is likely to make even clearer than before the fact that some regions, in particularly London and the South East, are heavy net contributors and others are net recipients of funds. Also, people appear to be under the illusion that “greater powers” somehow means that more money will miraculously appear in the public coffers.

      Witness the list of demands:
      – More affordable housing;
      – More and better jobs (How exactly does the government do this rather than the private sector?);
      – Improved education;
      – Better public transport;
      – Supporting local businesses.

      More this, more that and more of the other. So that’s plenty of extra “nice public stuff”, but no extra resources to pay for it.

      Plus the fact that our cities are governed based on an utterly undemocratic voting system anyway.

      Unless we think this through very, very carefully, it is going to be a complete mess and lead to even more disappointment and disillusionment all round.

    • Peter Andrews 25th Oct '14 - 4:44pm

      I want regional devolution not piece meal devolution to City regions on demand which will just cause multiple ‘West Lothian questions’

    • Alisdair McGregor 25th Oct '14 - 6:57pm

      I thought this question on the LDV survey was badly phrased, because “city region” devolution is a dead-duck Tory idea as far as Yorkshire is concerned.

      West Yorkshire is not going to consent to being ruled for the greater glory of Leeds, and likewise for every other part of the County.

      Why has the leadership forgotten that County Devolution is part of Policy Paper 117?

    • Stephen Hesketh 25th Oct '14 - 7:45pm

      As I commented at the time of the survey, I was extremely disappointed we were not offered a regional devolution question or option. Thinking about devolving power to the cities only is unbelievably short sighted and ignores whole swathes of the country and its population.

      Lancashire and Cheshire where shredded by the Tories 1974 boundary changes. Local people should be given the option of restoring historical counties if that is what they wish.

      The metropolitan based politicians and media are stitching up this debate due to not being able to see further than their own noses. This is not Liberal.

    • Since only the already relatively decentralised matters of education and NHS gained majority support amongst members of the party most in favour of localism, does it not indicate that the whole topic is a waste of time that most people are either against or couldn’t care less about. Policy wise it’s a vote loser with too many flaws. Move on.

      And there are 6 people who seriously want to devolve Defence to cities. So Manchester and Liverpool have a falling out and both will be able to deploy tanks?

    • Neil Sandison 8th Nov '14 - 10:26am

      City/County regions is the most practical option .many LEPs are already operating on those boundaries .Please dont go down the line of large unmanagable super regions unaccountable to no one with imposed regional spatial strategies which over impose the type of employment and economic development that can happen in your locality.Diverse development that recogises both our urban and rural asperaions for acceptable development be it white collar ,blue collar or green collar should be the model we should encourage.

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