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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 very pleased that we are making such good progress in south Yorkshire. The hon. Gentleman and I, along with many colleagues across the House, welcome that. He is correct to say that mayoral combined authorities have retained their 100% business rate retention for next year. Following the successful pilots, including in areas such as Lancashire—Kate Hollern and I have benefited from that—any further business rate retention will be part of the spending review process.

Devolution is particularly pertinent to areas such as south Yorkshire. Every deal so far has been bespoke, but as part of our ambition to level up powers we have written to every existing regional Mayor and asked them to take on new powers so that they can truly drive the ambition for the region. I am delighted to tell the House that one of the first to respond was Ben Houchen, the Mayor for Tees Valley. Not only has he made the Tees fly again, by saving Tees Valley airport; he is also making his economy fly again, by working with the Government on a suite of new powers to unleash the full potential of Teesside and everyone who lives there. In addition, the Government are talking to Cumbria, West Yorkshire, East Riding, Hull, County Durham and Lancashire about their ambitions for change in their areas.

Already, 50% of communities in the north have, to coin a phrase, taken back control through devolution. More areas want to be part of our devolution revolution, and we will ensure that they get that opportunity. Later this year, the Government will publish their devolution White Paper, setting out the Government’s ambition for full devolution across England. Through this White Paper, we will work with everyone in our local government family to ensure that they are truly empowered to be partners in growth.

As this Government unite and level up cities, towns and coastal and rural areas across our country, we acknowledge that our town centres are absolutely at the heart of a growing economy. They are the ground on which local jobs are created and small businesses are nurtured, and they inject billions of pounds into the local economy. That is why, through our £3.6 billion town deal fund, we are directly intervening in local communities. We are working with local areas and councils on more than 200 investment plans that have the potential to transform their economies.

The local Member of Parliament is able to sit on the town deal board in each and every one of our town deal areas. That ensures that Members of Parliament from across this House, whichever party they represent, have the opportunity to be an active part of the conversation in driving local growth in their communities. This is a new approach that I cannot recall previous Governments taking. It is about drawing on the talents of every single Member of this House with a town deal.

I now want to briefly mention Conor McGinn—this will probably ruin his career. He attended his first town board meeting on 23 January. He then approached me just outside the Division Lobby, fizzing with enthusiasm.