LABOUR will tomorrow promise radical tax powers to West Yorkshire to allow it to boost its economy and “control its destiny”.
Councils will retain all of any increase in business rate revenues, instead of the money flowing to the Treasury for redistribution – a switch worth many hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
In addition, under Labour’s plans, £30bn of spending – three times the sum planned by the Coalition - will be devolved to local political and business leaders across England, over five years.
And those local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) will enjoy extra powers over housing, business support, back-to-work schemes and skills, as well as existing plans for transport.
Explaining the plans to the Telegraph & Argus at Westminster, Lord Adonis, the architect of the “growth review”, said: “Areas can take control of their destinies, in a way that’s much harder at present.”
And, vowing to accept the blueprint, Ed Miliband said: “The next Labour Government will ensure city and county regions get control of business rates revenue.
“I know the next Labour Government cannot solve every problem by pulling levers in Whitehall.”
The eye-catching tax plan will expand the limited local retention of business rates introduced by the Coalition last year, covering 50 per cent of any increase in investment.
Under Labour’s plans, councils would keep 100 per cent of extra business revenues – despite protests that poorer areas, with fewer firms moving in, would lose out.
Lord Adonis dismissed those fears, saying: “That’s very, very pessimistic view of how much difference city-regions can make to growth. It’s not just London that’s growing.
“Giving local economic, business and political leaders a strong incentive to attract businesses into their areas must be a positive step forward.”
The extra devolution will only be on offer to areas with “combined authorities”, putting West Yorkshire – which set up its authority in April – in the fast lane.
Lord Adonis also raised the prospect of a single elected mayor for West Yorkshire, saying: “That will be a very big issue once these combined authorities have generated real clout.”
The plans – not all of which were immediately accepted by Mr Miliband – also include:
* Trebling the number of apprenticeships for school leavers in science, technology, engineering and maths.
* Establishing at least 100 new University Technical Colleges.
* New ‘enterprise and employment directors’ in schools – to better steer teenagers towards
work or an apprenticeship.
The package comes one week before the Leeds City-Region LEP learns its allocation from the £2 billion of mainly transport spending to be devolved by the Coalition, in 2015/16.
The LEP was required to put in a detailed bid, but Lord Adonis said his plan was for funds to be devolved “as of right”, without pitching area against area.