Labour support the principles of devolution. However there are a number of issues and unanswered questions to what the Chancellor is proposing this week.
Firstly, this seems to be a two-tiered approach – city regions and then the rest. What happens to those parts of the country where there isn’t a neat geographical administrative area to devolve to? This seems rather unfair to me.
Secondly, little has been said about how the funding being allocated to these areas is to be determined. I have grave concerns that this will be used to mask cuts to, for example, Greater Manchester. We shouldn’t forget the Tory Government’s record over the last 5 years, where the most deprived council areas have borne the brunt of funding cuts.
Thirdly, when you add the NHS into the mix, these issues are magnified. The principles of the NHS are that treatment and care are free, based on clinical need and universal; as a former Chair of a Trust I know how money moves around the national system to enable this to happen.
How will this change with finite regional funding pots? With this Government probably watering down deprivation weighting for these allocations again, how can we ensure the devolved funding is based on need? I can see the NHS as a national health service ceasing to exist. Cue the private sector and phase 2 of the Tory’s privatisation agenda.
I hope I’m wrong, but I wasn’t about the impact of the Health & Social Care Act 2012.
Finally with a real strain on public spending why are we introducing another tier of administration and bureaucracy? What a waste of public money we haven’t got. If this is really about devolution shouldn’t the people have a say in this? To my mind this is more about politics than truly wanting to devolve power.