Clegg says ‘genie out of the bottle’ on regional powers

THE deputy prime minister has highlighted the need to get Whitehall to let go of the purse strings in order to move forward with decentralisation.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg launched his Northern Futures project in July.  The aim is to facilitate a more open and innovative approach to economic policy making in the North of England by inviting experts and other members of the public to share their ideas on challenges and solutions.

Speaking a question and answer session in Leeds on Northern Futures, Clegg said: “If we can break the strangle hold over Whitehall on money, then we can break it on power too. Who controls the purse strings is really important.”

“The heart of it is about money,” he added.

Turning to Scotland, which has voted no to independence, Clegg said he thinks the referendum has almost surprised people in the way it hasn’t been only all about Scotland:  “There is a real appetite for this. There’s an unstoppable momentum and the genie is out of the bottle – Whitehall can’t wiggle free from not doing anything,” he said.

When asked about how to support other cities, as well as the North’s core cities, Clegg said: “It’s about how do we spread the goodies between the North. Other cities are of course included – it’s not just Leeds, Sheffield, etc.

“We need to overcome some of our traditional and very good humoured rivalries between great cities in the North. We have to realise that we are all in the same boat.”

Northern Futures final proposals will be unveiled in Yorkshire in November.

Clegg said: “For far too long our economy has remained reliant on London for decisions, funding, subsidies.

“Before the crash in 2008, for every private sector job created in the North, 10 were created in the South. So we became dependent for the hand-outs. Before 2008, no one really noticed the inbalance – money was being generated in the South and shipped to the North but in 2008, the cardiac arrest of the heart of our economy, the merry-go-round went bust in the chaos.

“Now, we are trying to make sure the North is not so reliant on the South and can secure sustainable economic prospects in which the North can stand on its own two feet.”

He added: “It’s not just about creating an economic hub in the North, but to make sure that economic hub that can compete with Madrid, Bangalore, Shanghai for example, which are all competing for capital investment.”