22 September 2014

In the wake of Scotland’s no vote last week, there’s been a lot of discussion in cities across the UK – including Manchester – about the prospect of devolution. It’s something I’ve found myself being asked, as I’m a huge supporter of the city that took me under its wing as a young man. However, I can’t help but feel that we should be focussing on making central government more efficient, not creating more layers of bureaucracy.

uk_map_devolutionI think the frustrations arise when you look at the spend per person in London on public transport compared to anywhere else in the country. Whilst it’s important we have a well-connected capital city, life is about balance and it’s important that we connect the whole of the country. It’s something that business leaders such as Sir Howard Bernstein have been quite vocal about.

Disproportionate spending in different areas of the country, epitomised by projects such as HS2, is pretty unfair when you consider how the people living on the fingertips of Britain are likely to be feeling. If you’re out in the sticks, in North Wales or the Highlands for example, the likelihood of anybody developing a community centre or developing the modes of transport is quite low. It’s very easy for the less connected areas of the UK to feel disconnected and disenfranchised. This is probably why the ‘yes’ vote for Scotland got legs and gathered so much momentum.

However, I’m not convinced that giving cities outside of the capital more control over how the money is spent is actually going to be the answer, as the money will only be dished out in the proportion it’s handed out at the moment. I’m under no illusion that we would get more, and what we don’t want to do is create another layer of bureaucracy that’s going to cost millions and be too expensive to manage.

Would it not be more efficient to improve our current system and get politicians more focussed on how they spend their money? Surely it’s better to improve existing problems than create new ones.

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