Yesterday I joined a debate at Local Government House on devolution, with the Greens, Lib Dems and Labour.
I explained how the grant of powers to the Scottish Parliament, promised for early in the next Parliament, necessitates justice for England. I reminded them that if Scotland is to settle her own income tax, there is no way England would accept a higher rate of income tax voted through with the help of Scottish MP votes at Westminster.
I argued that the artificial regions of England which some wish to create as governing units are unloved and unsuitable to be elected administrations. There is no great sense of South Eastern belonging nor any big outbreak of East Midlands feelings . England is a country of Counties and Boroughs, of ancient areas of local government that do not require Sunderland to accept government from Newcastle, Liverpool to be governed by Manchester or Plymouth to be governed by Exeter.
Governing areas need to be ones that command support and loyalty. People need to feel they belong to an area or place for it to have a government people will obey, shape and accept.
I drew attention to the idea that some Northern Councils working together should have influence over their local NHS budget. There have always been difficulties with issues that lie on the borders of NHS and Council jurisdiction. There are problems in some places finding sufficient Council places for care to allow people to leave hospital in good time. More common decision making between the NHS and Council social services could help.
How far would you go in offering devolved powers and budgets to local government? For it to work central government has to grant more power to Councils, and Councils have to show maturity in making decisions and accepting responsibility for what they decide.