Labour has promised a major shift of power away from London that would herald the “greatest era of English devolution in living memory”.
The party unveiled a blueprint on Monday for substantial reforms to British politics, including abolishing the House of Lords and handing powers over issues including transport and culture to towns and cities.
At the launch of the report of Labour’s commission on the UK’s future, headed by former prime minister Gordon Brown, Sir Keir Starmer told an audience in Leeds that people are being held back by a “broken model” that “hoards power in Westminster”.
Kim McGuinness, the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, said that the changes would put an end to a “‘cap in hand’ approach which sees the views of an unelected official in Westminster worth more than the views of the residents in the regions”.
She added: “The next Labour Government will pave the way for the greatest era of English devolution in living memory, taking power out of London and back into the hands of the regions. That’s why today’s Future of the UK report by Keir Starmer and Gordon Brown is so vitally important if we are to create real change.
“For too long now, under too many Governments, the North East just hasn’t had the power it needs to tackle its unique challenges.
“The North East has the highest child poverty rates in the country. If there was a bank in London going under the Tories would set up a taskforce and hand over billions of pounds to save the City. But when children starve in homes across the North there is no solution, for a simple reason; the people who care don’t have the power and the people who have the power don’t care.”
Labour’s proposals would see the unelected Lords replaced by a new democratic assembly of nations and regions and move 50,000 civil service jobs outside of London.
They would also hand new economic powers to English mayors, local authorities and devolved governments – including the ability to raise revenue and take control of bus and train services.
Citing the Government’s shifting of Treasury jobs from Whitehall to the North East recently, Conservative MP for Darlington Peter Gibson accused Labour of having “given up on new ideas”.
Teesside MP and former cabinet minister Simon Clarke added: “Anyone who has looked at the institutionalised gridlock in US politics can see the utter stupidity it would be to create an elected upper house, fatally undermining the primacy of the Commons. If we want effective government of any colour, this is a terrible idea.”
Northumbria University professor Katy Shaw sat on the commission led by Mr Brown and said that boosting cultural and creative industries was key to the region’s future, citing new developments such as the plans to turn the old Pallion shipyard in Sunderland into gigantic film studios.
She added: “I was invited in to bring a perspective from the North East, especially on education, R&D and the cultural and creative industries to the commission. The creative industries were growing at four times the rate of any other sector pre-pandemic and culture remains a key area of growth and a brilliant way of fostering skills development, environmental impact and civic pride in communities up and down the UK.
“I am pleased to see so many of the report’s recommendations focussed on the role of culture in creating a better, fairer Britain and that is nowhere more apparent than in the North East.”