Milton Keynes at centre of devolution debate

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The opportunity for up-and-coming cities such as Milton Keynes in the national devolution debate is highlighted in a recent report.

The report*, featured in the Independent on Sunday on 21 December, explains how large metropolitan areas such as Manchester and Leeds are pressing for devolution of powers over their finances and local public services.

But it highlights the need to find an approach that works for the next tier of cities, such as Milton Keynes, that are below a population size of 400,000 and are not of a sufficient size currently to lead a city region or wider economy.

It also points to the difficulty of grouping councils in some areas together into viable regions.

A possible solution for Milton Keynes is thought to be working together with neighbouring councils in Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Luton.

The Leader of Milton Keynes Council, Cllr Peter Marland, has revealed his intent to open discuss with neighbouring councils about closer working and the opportunities for devolution.

He said: “This report has quite rightly identified the need for devolution to reach beyond just the large cities of England.

“Milton Keynes is consistently rated as one of the strongest and fastest growing UK city economies but we could do so much more with greater control over finances and public services.

“I am planning talks with our neighbouring councils to explore the potential for working together especially on economic issues where we have much in common.

“I will approach these discussions with an open mind but we will need to get the balance right between being big enough to make an impact but no so big we lose our focus and sense of place.”

*Devo-City, A short guide to Britain’s devolving city regions in words and data, Public Service Intelligence, December 2014.