It “traditionally hangs on” to power, he said, in a “very centralised system of government and a culture that goes with it.”
Betts (pictured) said that he is “not just blaming the civil service,” because “politicians go along with it,” but that “the civil service and ministers often have a common interest in keeping power at the centre.”
His comments came as his committee published its report Devolution in England: the Case for Local Government on 9 July, calling for the transfer of tax-raising powers to local authorities – including business rates, stamp duty and council tax – and more local freedoms to borrow for investment.
“If the citizens of New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo can be trusted with tax-raising powers, why not the people of London, Greater Manchester or the North-East?”, he asked. “Local areas know best how to stimulate their economies.”
The government announced in the same week that it plans to hand £12bn to local authorities in a series of ‘Growth Deals’ to boost local economies. It said it has agreed the first £6bn of local projects and allocated around £2bn to 39 councils.
Betts told CSW that while the initiative is a “step in the right direction”, he’d like to see councils able to “get on and deliver growth at local levels without being tied to specific government-approved projects.”