Newcastle City Council has joined forces with London Mayor Boris Johnson to demand greater financial freedom for England’s great cities.
A campaign launched at the Conservative Party conference urged the Government to let cities raise their own taxes and decide how the money was spent.
Nick Forbes, Newcastle City Council Leader, said “London has secured substantial additional funding, powers and responsibilities from central Government, and they’re pushing for much more.
“It’s vital that cities like Newcastle aren’t left behind. By working more closely with other major cities across the country, including London, we can put a stronger case for securing the powers we need to make Newcastle a successful working city, with more freedom and resources to invest in our own priorities, grow our local economy and create new jobs for the future”.
The campaign has been led by the Core Cities group, which includes Newcastle, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.
Although these cities are sometimes seen as rivals to London, they are working with Boris Johnson to demand control over council tax, stamp duty, land tax and business rates with the ability to keep the revenues rather than relying on central government grants.
This would give them a reliable source of funds to spend on measures to promote economic growth, they say.
The London Mayor said: “That London’s Government is joining with England’s largest cities to call for change is an historic and significant move. It’s a partial but positive and practical answer to the conundrum about English devolution and I believe it is good not just for the cities involved but for the country at large.”
The launch came as the party conference continued with a major speech by George Osborne, the Chancellor, who announced a long-term freeze in fuel duty, to continue at last until the next election.
Mr Osborne also set a new target of ending the deficit and bringing the public finances into surprlus – so that the amount raised through taxation was higher then spending – by the end of the next Parliament.
The idea, he said, would be to ensure there was money set aside for the next time there was an economic downturn.
The last Labour Government had made a mistake in assuming it had ended “boom and bust”, and any sensible Government would be prepared for bad economic times, he said.
At the same time, spending in infrastructure would be increased in as the economy grew, said Mr Osborne.
Warning that the economy was still fragile, he said: “It is not over. This battle to turn Britain around, it is not even close to being over.”
And announcing a freeze in fuel duty, he said: “Provided we can find the savings to pay for it, I want to freeze fuel duty for the rest of this Parliament.”
Mr Osborne added: “Our plan is working. We held our nerve in the face of huge pressure. Now Britain is turning a corner.
“That is down to the resolve and to the sacrifice of the people of this country.
“And for that support we owe the British people a huge heartfelt thank you.
“Thanks to you, Britain is on the right track.”
Home Secretary Theresa May set out plans to ensure foreign criminals are deported from Britain before their appeals against leaving the country are heard.
She said the forthcoming Immigration Bill will contain plans to allow the deportation of people who have forfeited their rights to be in Britain if they are not at risk of serious or irreversible harm.
Their appeals against deportation will then be heard while they are out of the country.