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Devolution proposals submitted by 38 cities, towns and counties

The UK government has announced that 38 cities, towns and counties across the country have submitted proposals for the devolution of a range of powers from central government.22 Sep 2015

Chancellor George Osborne announced in the summer that, after reaching an agreement with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in November, the government was "working towards further devolution deals with Sheffield City Region, Liverpool City Region, and Leeds and West Yorkshire and partner authorities". A statement from the government last week said a total of 38 applications had now been made for powers in spending areas including housing and transport.

As well as the applicants previously announced, the full list of areas submitting proposals included London, the North East, Greater Essex and Cheshire and Warrington. Several different proposals were submitted from the Yorkshire area of the north of England, including bids representing "Greater Yorkshire", "York, North Yorkshire and East Riding" and "Hull, Yorkshire, Leeds City Region and the Northern Powerhouse".

A bid was also received from the West Midlands, after several Midlands councils announced their intention to create a West Midlands Combined Authority in July. Among the proposals previously announced by the councils were the establishment of an independent West Midlands Land Commission to arrange the registration, assessment and remediation of development sites and vacant properties across the region and a Regeneration and Development Growth Board to "oversee a portfolio of major development projects".

Proposals for Greater Manchester also include a land commission for the city region and powers over planning. Greater Manchester's mayor is expected to have powers to set up development corporations and create a statutory spatial strategy as well as having control over a new housing investment fund.

The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, which is currently awaiting its second reading in the House of Commons, is expected to put the legal framework in place to support the deals. The chancellor announced in May that any transfer of powers "has to involve a city-wide elected mayor", but the House of Lords inserted a sub-clause into the bill in July which would prevent the appointment of a mayor being used as a condition for agreeing to the transfer of functions.

Communities secretary Greg Clark said the government would work with the bidders "in the coming weeks and months to turn their proposals into reality".

Planning expert Mike Pocock of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: “The announcement that bids could also be submitted by towns and counties was always going to prove popular and underlines that devolution is not simply about the regional cities. The bidding councils understandably believe that they know where to spend the money best in order to meet local and regional needs. The outcome of the bidding process is therefore keenly awaited to see which councils have been successful."

"Thereafter it is up to the councils to demonstrate that they can effectively manage powers to deliver productivity and growth for the local and regional areas," said Pocock. "Whatever the outcome it is clear that the devolution train continues to gather momentum and the manner in which powers and spending is handled at a local and regional level will be transformed in coming years."