Burnham warns of threat to devolution from local government funding crisis

Andy Burnham speaking at the Convention of the North, alongside other Northern mayors

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has warned the crisis in local government funding risks damaging the foundation of the city region model of devolution.

Burnham said “the parlous state of finances” in local government, which has seen Northern councils report huge deficits that could lead to possible bankruptcy.

“Over the last 14 years, central government has treated local government appallingly just cutting it back, and back, and back, year after year,” he said.

“There was a survey from the local government information unit recently which found that 50% of those who responded to that survey feared bankruptcy at their council within five years. One in 10 feared that within one year.

“If the base upon which English devolution is built – local government in England – collapses, that will pull down English devolution with it and it’s time for people to wake up to this risk.”

Burnham’s comments were made while he was attending the Convention of the North in Leeds, an annual summit that this year was focused on shaping a manifesto for the north ahead of the coming general election.

But the Greater Manchester mayor wants to see immediate action from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, starting with the Budget next Wednesday.

Burnham said: “If he concludes his budget statement without offering anything for councils across England who are struggling to cope, then his budget will be a failure because that will leave communities across England at risk of seeing services going backwards, roads with more potholes, local facilities decaying and that is not a foundation on which English devolution can be built.”