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Politics

In the News

More devolution success

Mike McCartney

30th March 2021

The Manchester Mayor is to press ahead with reforms to the city's bus network

I have blogged before about the case in favour of more devolution for the English regions.

Among the main arguments in favour is that it is much more efficient to have the regions concerned with policy delivery involved in the formulation of policy, and I used to say that evidence from the Celtic arenas suggests that there are clear benefits to bringing the government closer to the people since policies can be designed to fit the needs of the people in different regions. Now I would add many of the successes in policy experimentation from the English regions. I would even go so far as saying that the time appears to have come for the extension of the directly elected mayor idea to more of Britain’s major city regions. This was an idea long championed by Tony Blair as PM (he was of a fan of what Rudy Giuliani achieved as New York Mayor), but it has taken a decade since he left office to come into effect outside London. Supporters of the idea can point to the success of the London Mayor, where Ken Livingstone’s decision to introduce the congestion charge proves that the mayor idea can bring about innovative solutions to problems that extend beyond traditional local government boundaries. Subsequently, Boris Johnson and Saddiq Khan have successfully used it as a platform to argue for London’s interests. Plus, although early days, we can also shine a torch on the success Andy Burnham has had as Mayor of Greater Manchester. The conjunction of a lack of desire for elected regional assemblies, and the success of London’s three mayors, may well mean that the time is ripe to usher in a new dawn for local democracy in the shape of a greater number of mayors of city-regions, with strategic responsibility for public policy.

This brings us to Burnham's plans to take the bus network back under public control. As The Guardian reports:

"The decision to press ahead with a franchising system would mean more joined up and affordable travel, accountable to the public, Burnham said, in what would be the first reverse of the deregulation of the bus industry by the Thatcher government in the 1980s.

The buses will all have the same livery, and a London-style ticketing system that caps the price on multiple bus and tram trips will be introduced. Routes, fares and schedules will be set by the local authority and the services franchised out to private operators to run."

See: https://www.theguardian.com/uk...

And this seems to fit with my arguments above, relating to the idea that devolved governments can be more responsive to the will of the people, and better understand the needs of their area than bureaucrats working miles away in an office in Whitehall somewhere. Are Burnham's plans popular?

"Nine out of 10 council leaders had urged Burnham to choose franchising, and a public consultation showed more than 80% of the public backed bringing buses under public control." (The Guardian).

So there you have it. More evidence that devolution works.


Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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