Tony Travers - London School of Economics and Political Science

Report
Consequences for the
government of England
Tony Travers
London School of Economics
The government of England
• UK Parliament and government is England’s
Parliament and government
• Failure of efforts to solve ‘West Lothian’ problem
• Blair government’s English regional policy
• Greater London Authority
• RDAs; Government Regional Offices, regional
‘assemblies’
• North East referendum (2004)
• Abolition of all ‘regional’ machinery by
Coalition
Some options for England
• English Parliament
• Dominant within ‘federal’ UK
• Two PMs?
• English Grand Committee
• Plus convention that its decisions on England laws would not
be overturned by UK parliament
• McKay Commission proposals
• English MPs’ veto/delaying power
• Fourth reading of England-only Bills
• Final decision given to English MPs
• Do nothing, but have a running debate
England’s sub-national government
• Relatively weak, residual, local government
system
• Transfer of services from LG over post-1945 period
– Utilities; health; ambulances; advanced FE; FE; schools, public
health [also, non-domestic rates]
– Modest transfers to LG: ‘community care’; public health;
council tax ‘support’;
• Local taxation frozen and capped
• GLA and ‘city region’ combined authorities
have been able to negotiate limited financial
freedoms
The debate about Scotland
• Has reminded English politicians and others
about the Barnett Formula and Scotland’s funding
advantage
• Scotland and Wales have shown that radical
devolution within the UK can be achieved
without collapse and failure
• Calman, Holtham, Silk have proposed substantial
tax reform to build upon existing devolution
• Taxation powers will test Treasury orthodoxy
• NB: Scottish Conservatives’ income tax policy
Barnett and England
Public expenditure by nation and
region, 2011-12
Public Expenditure
(£ per head)
PE
(UK=100)
GDP
(UK=100)
UK
6225
100
100
England
5945
96
102
(- East
5546
89
93)
Scotland
7156
115
99
Wales
7081
114
75
Northern Ireland
10287
165
79
Source: HM Treasury, Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses 2013, Table 9.20
‘Devo max’: not for England
• No current proposals to change the sub-national
government of England
• ‘City regional’ government now part of a multiparty political consensus
• Greater Manchester is the best-developed city
region outside London
• ‘Earn Back’ deal [also now for Cambridge]
• Developed economic plan for Greater Manchester
• London
• No greater tax freedom than the rest of England
• But, London Finance Commission proposals for fiscal devolution to some
extent picked up by Adonis report
After the referendum: what next for
England?
• Osborne, Miliband offer some form of city
regional powers
• Barrier to substantial England reforms
– Scotland, wales, Northern Ireland administrations
were already separate from England when devolution
occurred
– Any substantive devolution within England would
weaken Whitehall departments
– Health, Education, Work & Pensions
– Baronies of UK central government are (arguably) now
more powerful than the Treasury
Challenge/opportunity of continued
‘austerity’
• Unsustainable size of UK State
– Tax: 38% GDP; Expenditure: 43% GDP
• Zero deficit = Expenditure: 38% GDP
– Need for government to devolve shrinkage of the
State?
– Relative dynamism and productivity of city/local
government
– Either local government in England will have to shrink
by 50% in real terms or there will have to be
devolution of local public spending to areas
• City regions as potential pilots
What the English think….
Source: John Curtice in ‘Does England want Scotland to Leave or Stay?’, NatCen, 2014
Conclusions
• England’s self-perception as a single country
appears very powerful
• Not much evidence the public is much concerned
with England’s constitutional position within the
UK
• Sub-national government in England weaker than
in the past
• London as possible exception – up to a point
• Limited form of ‘city regional’ devolution may be
the next step…
Consequences for the
government of England
Tony Travers
London School of Economics

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