Keir Starmer will set out plans to deliver “the biggest ever transfer of power from Westminster to the British people” with a promise that, with Labour, “Britain will see a change not just in who governs but how we are governed”.
Speaking on Monday morning – alongside the publication of a new report, A New Britain – the Labour leader is expected to say that “the centre hasn’t delivered” and argue that “we have an unbalanced economy, which makes too little use of the talents of too few people in too few places”.
“We will have higher standards in public life, a wider spread of power and opportunity and better economic growth that benefits everyone, wherever they are. By setting our sights higher, wider, better, we can build a better future together,” he is expected to say.
Starmer commissioned the report by the Commission on the UK’s Future in December 2020, promising that it would spread “power, wealth and opportunity” beyond Westminster and deliver “real and lasting economic and political devolution across our towns, communities and to people across the country”.
The four “pillars” of the report are: “a new purpose for Britain: equal opportunities for all”; “biggest transfer of power out of Westminster ever”; “reform of the centre”; and “a fresh blueprint to implement radical change”. It makes 40 recommendations.
Among the 40 recommendations is a plan to give communities powers over skills, transport, planning and culture to enable the emergence of hundreds of ‘clusters’ of economic activity in cities and towns. The report recommends new powers for mayors, councils and devolved governments, including:
- “New powers over transport and infrastructure;
- “New powers to stimulate growth, with longer funding settlements, and commitments to [research and development] that take into account local economic plans;
- “New powers over development and housing, such as compulsory purchase orders on vacant sites;
- “A regionally-oriented investment bank to ensure start-ups have access to equity capital needed to scale;
- “Powers over economic development and job creation and the devolution of Jobcentres; and
- “Powers to link training and skills to local employment needs through devolution of colleges.”
The report argues that “continuing over-concentration of power in Westminster and Whitehall is undermining our ability to deliver growth and prosperity for the whole country”, adding: “The more we lag behind economically the more people feel abandoned by an unresponsive system of government.”
Starmer is expected to day that “people up and down this country are crying out for a new approach”. He will admit that he voted Remain in the 2016 referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, but will also say that he “couldn’t disagree with the basic case that many Leave voters made to me”.
“They wanted democratic control over their lives so they could provide opportunities for the next generation, build communities they felt proud of, and public services they could rely on. And I know that in the Scottish referendum in 2014,” he will say.
“Many of those who voted Yes did so for similar reasons. The same frustration at a Westminster system that seems remote. The same yearning for the power to build a fairer future for themselves and their families.
“People know Britain needs change. But they are never going to get it from the Tories. I am determined that, with Labour, people will get the change they deserve.”
The commission’s review, headed by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown, will also recommend moving to an elected second chamber to help restore faith in the political system. Reports earlier this month revealed Starmer has told peers he wanted to make such a change as part of a bid to restore faith in politics.
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