LIB DEM CONFERENCE: Suffolk and Essex should be able to demand powers from Whitehall, says Clegg
- Credit: PA
Communities in Suffolk and Essex should be able to demand powers from Whitehall, Nick Clegg has said, as he outlined plans to put into law a ‘power-grab’ for English regions as part of the constitutional shake-up following the Scottish referendum.
The Deputy Prime Minister revealed he is working up plans to put into law a “statutory right” for the regions, with draft legislation set to be published early next year.
In what he described as the “missing bit of the constitutional jigsaw” he said there was a “desperate need” to decentralise power from London.
At his party’s conference in Glasgow, the Liberal Democrat leader also raised the spectre of giving councils further money raising ability, claiming it was not healthy that there was a dependency culture where almost all of England’s great communities and big cities had to go “cap in hand to politicians and civil servants in Whitehall”.
He added: “There is no point in embarking on a new wave of decentralisation in England unless it involves greater control over money.
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“We have done a significant amount on that already. Whether it is borrowing powers, or the retention of 50% of locally-raised business rates, but we must go a lot further.”
His apparent unconditional offer of decentralisation appears to be at odds with the Conservatives who are focused on bringing in English votes for English laws.
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He said he was “throwing the ball back into their (the Conservatives’) court, claiming they wanted to string the issue out because they thought it was a way to help them in the Clacton by-election.
“We need to flush them out. We need them to tell us if they are serious about fair constitutional reform, or if they had in their mind a sort of rather grubby stitch-up in Westminster because of Conservative over-representation in England.”
Mr Clegg dismissed the significance of the unfair spending settlement, the Barnett Formula, which sees Scottish people get more per head in public spending than people in England, saying the new powers were more important.
“In a sense the Barnett Formula is a mathematical formula by which the cake is divided.
“Actually the way you create the cake in the first place is a much more important thing,” he said.
The Lib Dems also pledged to hike capital gains tax on profits from the sale of shares and second homes to help fund a £100 income tax break for 29million workers if they remain in government.
Mr Clegg said that the Lib Dems would increase the personal allowance threshold, below which no income tax is payable, to £11,000 by April 2016, as a first step towards the party’s long-standing goal of increasing it to £12,500.
Business secretary Vince Cable also indicated that he was in favour of building over golf courses to help solve Britain’s housing crisis. He said most families would rather have a garden outside their front door than protected greenbelt miles away from their home.