Four Principles for Devolution

Philip Hardstone is a founder member of the Campaign for a Yorkshire Parliament. Here he sets out four key principles that he believes must be met for any form of devolution to claim legitimacy.

1. Impact

There is no or little point in devolving powers unless it brings something new and different that can add real and genuine value that changes citizen’s lives for the better. In other words, provides added value on top what we have now under the Westminster system, or that Westminster fails to provide.

2. Subsidiarity

Devolution is about handing power and control over their lives back to the people. While I support the idea of One Yorkshire, devolution does not stop there.

It is impossible for a regional assembly, mayor, or parliament to fully represent and understand the detailed needs and aspirations of those living in each tiny neighbourhood or village just as it is for Westminster to do so.

If devolution is to work, priorities must be set, and decisions must be taken at the lowest possible level or closest to where they will have their effect, starting with the local neighbourhood or village and permutate throughout the decision-making process.

3. Fair Elections

The current first passed the post system is fraught with various inequalities and felt to be outdated and unfair by many.

Proportional representation is the idea that the seats in an assembly, council or parliament should be in proportion to the votes cast, including for independent candidates. There are various methods of proportional representation, it is not for us however, to say here which is the best. 

4. Independent Finance

There is an old saying that he that pays the piper calls the tune.

A genuine shift towards the devolution of powers must include the power to raise revenue from local taxes and other means. We have seen how Councils have been hamstrung over the past 40 years, first through rate capping and then the ring fencing of grants. This cannot go on.

If local and regional government is to be truly accountable and work for all those concerned, Westminster’s tight control over the purse strings must stop.

Philip is retired. He has over a quarter of a century’s experience working in community development and empowerment at a senior level on behalf of Kirklees Council, representing the Council both nationally and internationally over the years. He is a former magistrate and has worked voluntarily in the rehabilitation of offenders. He is a lifelong supporter of LGBTQ+ rights.

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