Conservative think tank: Inequality due to ‘centralisation’ of power in London

Merthyr Tydfil (left). Picture by Biggs (CC BY 2.0). The City of London (right).

A think-tank set up by Margaret Thatcher has argued that power in the United Kingdom is too centralised in London.

The Centre for Policy Studies report argues that wealth, talent, trade and investment are concentrated in London and the South East – and argues that the power and prosperity should be shared more widely.

London now attracts roughly three times more transport investment per head than the rest of the country, the report says.

To put this right, the report argues that the Government should commit itself to a serious programme of devolution, based on the view that local leaders are best placed to know what is needed in their local area and reflecting the fact that healthy competition between areas will lead to better outcomes.

“By both historical and European standards, the UK remains extraordinarily centralised,” the report says.

“Some disagree and point to the examples of Wales and Scotland (whose economic performance has lagged behind much of England) as an argument against devolution.

“The point that should be taken from these examples, however, is that bad governance and bad decision-making by political leaders will often lead to poor outcomes.

“This is precisely the sort of lesson which can be learnt as a result of devolution, showing which policies work and which do not.”

‘Disparities’

The report backs a range of measures to close the gap, including:

  • The establishment of a new National Infrastructure Fund, taking advantage of low interest rates to invest in transport, digital, energy, space and electric vehicles in all parts of the country
  • A greater devolution of powers, particularly fiscal devolution, throughout the United Kingdom.
  • Localised transport and trade and investment policy-making

The report’s main author, Nick King, was Chief of Staff and lead policy adviser to the Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP whilst he was Business Secretary and Communities Secretary.

“In terms of economic performance our United Kingdom is not as united as we might like, with significant disparities between London and the South East and the rest of the country,” he said.

“The only way to close the gap and to bring about economic growth around the country is by giving the private sector every reason to invest and operate in those parts of our country that need investment most.

“Whether through devolution, infrastructure investment, a revamped approach to skills and education or the introduction of new business-friendly ‘Opportunity Zones’, this report sets out a plan for how the Government can level up the economy and boost growth around the country.”

Robert Colvile, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said that every part of the UK should be given the tools to compete with London.

“It’s no coincidence that we are simultaneously one of the most centralised countries in Europe and one of the most geographically unequal,” he said.

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Royston Jones
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Devolution hasn’t worked for most of Wales because we’ve replicated the UK system by concentrating influence and prosperity in Cardiff. So devolving more power to Cardiff isn’t going to help Merthyr.

Another issue is that statist parties like Labour and Plaid are opposed to wealth creation.

The only hope is independence with a new political and economic mindset coupled with a new capital away from Cardiff.

pete
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pete

If you took the influence and prosperity from Cardiff they’d want independence from wales themselves

Alwyn Evans
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Alwyn Evans

Every know that – though it’s surprising to see the CFPS admit it – but who will do anything about it?

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

It might be used to spread a bit of loot around places like Newcastle, Liverpool, Bristol, Norwich as they probably consider Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Oxford and Cambridge sufficiently robust. But that’s about as far as it will go. Panic in Scotland due to SNP’s strength might see a chunk pushed up there but that country will look the gift horse very closely in the mouth. Wales would probably have to make do with one of Cairns’ earlier deals recycled to look like something new, and politicians of all colours would hail it as progress ! And we wonder why we… Read more »

Tudor Rees
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Tudor Rees

This has been and is a major problem, and it would benefit England, Scotland and Wales , if they were all independent. It will then be up to the Members of the Welsh Senedd to ensure that they do not replicate discredited Westminster/Whitehall model, which still suffers from a mindset stuck in the centralist Imperial past. The change should help the English Parliament to get over it, and we could look forwards to a new era of dynamic co-operation involving England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

John Young
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John Young

Is this a joke ? This Think Tank was set up by Maggie, which means about 30 years ago, and they are saying what has been blindingly obvious to everyone in the country for the last 30 years. No one needs to be part of any Think Tank to come to that conclusion.

Is the report 30 years old ? That might explain it.

Howard Kimberley
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Howard Kimberley

The money to improve the urban infrastructure should be redirected to the rural / post industrial areas to make them more accessible and attractive. The Welsh Government should have been located in Llandrindod Wells to reflect the population distribution of the country. The north/south road link needs to be improved and a north/south rail link needs to be reinstated.

Anthony Mitchell
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Anthony Mitchell

Machynlleth in my mind would be a more appropriate capital, perfect for everyone around Wales to commute to and it would be a perfect way to set up a north/south transport link. Owain Glyndwr picked a perfect capital in my opinion.

Meurig
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Meurig

If you actually read the CPS report it has some powerful ideas which could be leveraged in Wales with practical effect notably the Open Port model. There is no shortage of capital globally but it needs to be attracted by targeted incentives. Objective One and EIB Finding were no different. WAG needs to understand how to attract capital from sources other than Westminster before any discussion on nation building can be credible. Who in WAG is talking to the stewards of the trillions of $ of infrastructure capital looking for projects with 15-25 year returns and making the case for… Read more »