April 9th 15.30
PRESS RELEASE: (immediate)
Northern devolution campaign gives qualified welcome to Labour plans
The Hannah Mitchell Foundation -Northern Future has given a highly qualified welcome to Ed Miliband’s proposals for devolution to the North.
“We welcome any proposal to devolve powers from Whitehall and Westminster to the regions but this doesn’t go nearly far enough,” said foundation chair Barry Winter. “At the very least we would have expected Labour to re-instate the regional development agencies, which did much to support economic growth in the North, despite weak accountability. The alarming gap between the North and London and the South-east will not be closed by Labour’s proposals. If anything, it’s just sticking plaster.”
Foundation secretary Prof. Paul Salveson was equally critical. “It’s ironic that Ed Miliband points to the success of Germany where economic growth has been led by strong, directly-elected regional parliaments. What he is proposing is breathing a bit of life into the weak and unaccountable local enterprise partnerships with some extra powers to almost equally unaccountable joint boards of local authorities. This is no substitute for strong regional government which takes power and resources out of the centre and works with re-energised local authorities. The proposal for having ‘regional’ ministers, whose only accountability is to Westminster, is equally inadequate. Whilst we welcome proposals for regional banks, the key issue that Labour has ducked is regional democracy.”
The foundation is holding its annual general meeting this Saturday in Manchester. Members will hear a talk by Andy Mycock, of University of Huddersfield’s Politics Department, speak on ‘Scotland, The Referendum and The North’. “Devolution has been a great success in Scotland,” says Foundation chair Barry Winter. “Whatever the outcome of the referendum, Scotland is likely to get more powers devolved from London. We want to see the beginning of process of real devolution to the North of England to help revive our flagging economy.”
The foundation points to the ‘democratic deficit’ in the North of England. “Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Greater London have significant control over their own destinies. The North of England, with over 15 million people, is still very much tied to the dictates of Whitehall,” says Paul Salveson. “Labour’s proposals do little to address this issue”.
Ends/ For more information ring Paul Salveson 07795 008691
Note for editors (see over)
Media representatives are welcome to the first part of our AGM (Andy Mycock’s talk) but please let us know in advance that you’re coming by ringing 07795 008691. The event starts at 1300 in Friends Meeting House, Mount Street, Manchester.
The Hannah Mitchell Foundation/Northern Future is a broadly-based campaign for Northern devolution, supported by many Northern MPs and peers. Linda Riordan is president of the Foundation. The Foundation was founded in March 2012 to lobby for devolution to the North of England and is rapidly building up support across the North of England. Its patrons include Lord Prescott, several MPs and the grand-son of Hannah Mitchell. Hannah (1871-1946) was a radical activist who was imprisoned during the agitation for women’s votes. She went on to become a popular councillor in the Newton Heath ward of Manchester. Although she had just two weeks of formal schooling she was a talented writer.