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Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:13 pm on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Jake Berry Jake Berry Minister of State (Cabinet Office), Minister of State (Cabinet Office) (jointly with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) 1:13 pm, 5th February 2020

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will welcome the recent discussions that have taken place with local authority leaders across Cumbria. I know that he has influence over his own local authorities, and I am heartened by the open-hearted and open-handed way in which they have approached those discussions. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been clear that we should seek mayoral combined authorities across the entirety of the north of England. It is my view that if we want to truly empower communities, a powerful, locally elected, singularly accountable individual is the best way of doing it. I hope that we will shortly be able to progress further devolution deals and discussions across Cumbria.

As I have said, devolution does work. It is already paying dividends, with funding and metro Mayors delivering programmes that local people want. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish might want to listen to this. I am sure that the completion of the A6 relief road to Manchester airport in Greater Manchester has assisted him and his constituents to get around the north-west of England. I know it helps me. It was done by the Labour Mayor for Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

In Liverpool, we are supporting new rolling stock on Merseyrail. That is important to me—I went to school on those trains and did not know that 35 years later people would be going to school on the same trains. There is a new train maintenance and technology training academy and the largest rolling stock modernisation facility in the country, creating hundreds of new high-quality, high-skilled jobs, in co-operation and collaboration with Steve Rotheram, the Labour Mayor of Liverpool. In the west midlands, the extraordinary Andy Street is investing £207 million to extend the West Midlands Metro system, re-opening railway lines and stations. That is all being done by metro Mayors.

Of course, those decisions could have been made in Whitehall but, I think as everyone knows, the process would have been slower, they would not necessarily have reflected local priorities, and crucially, picking up on the hon. Gentleman’s recent comments, they would have lacked the local democratic legitimacy of decisions made by single accountable elected individuals. It is precisely because devolution works that we intend to go further and faster. We will unleash the potential of all of our regions, delivering on the priorities of this people’s Government to level up everywhere.