‘Give us the money and the power, Rishi’

Business lobby group Downtown in Business operates in Liverpool and across the UK and it is calling for more spending and more devolution for the regions from the Chancellor. Tony McDonough reports

Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver his Spending Review to Parliament this week


Leading business lobby group Downtown in Business (DIB) has published its own ‘White Paper’ calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to begin a huge step-change in infrastructure spending and devolution.

Ahead of the Chancellor’s Spending Review on Wednesday, DIB is not only calling for more investment into regions but also more power for Metro Mayors such as Steve Rotheram and Liverpool city region and Andy Burnham in Greater Manchester.

In its Fund, Devolve, Build document, DIB lays out a list of policy initiatives it would like to see from Mr Sunak on Wednesday that it believes would kick-start the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Its proposals are:

  • Introduce a one-off Windfall Tax on key sectors to raise money for combined authorities and infrastructure.
  • Reform the Treasury Green Book rules which currently favour the South East.
  • Create a UK Infrastructure Investment Bank to replace the European Investment Bank’s role.
  • Dramatically increase the number of combined authorities and create unitary authorities.
  • Give more power and responsibility to metro mayors and combined authorities, including for skills, training, decarbonisation and infrastructure.
  • Bring forward all aspects of HS2, as opposed to delaying legs.
  • Fully commit to Northern Powerhouse Rail.
  • Build the third runway at Heathrow and support regional international airports and ports.

Frank McKenna, chef executive of Liverpool-based DIB, said: “Neither the country nor the Government have had the best year, the Chancellor’s Spending Review statement on Wednesday is a chance to provide a step change in 2021.

“We need radical reform through devolution and innovative ways of raising revenue to invest in infrastructure. This is the only way to get the economy back on track.  As we have seen with the pandemic, you cannot control everything from Westminster, nor can you rebuild the economy just in London.

“We need the Government to especially invest in transport across the regions, improve productivity and regenerate local communities.”

The Government’s National Infrastructure Strategy was due to be published a year ago, consultation on the Infrastructure Finance Review closed in June 2019 and there is still a delay on the Chancellor’s proposals from it. And there is now a wait for the Devolution and Local Recovery White Paper.

“I know everyone has been busy with the pandemic, but we can’t have this level of drift in Government,” added Mr McKenna. “We have already gone into recession. The Chancellor has to provide some direction on Wednesday, and it has to involve the regions and infrastructure.

“Our White Paper sets out solid proposals which Government can learn from. We’re calling on the Chancellor to be bold in this pre-Christmas announcement and give us something to look forward to in the New Year.”

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