Mayor Burnham would ‘eventually’ welcome a ‘northern tax’

Date published: 16 September 2019

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has said he would eventually welcome a ‘northern tax’.

Mr Burnham said in a BBC interview that he would be ‘quite happy’ to see devolved regions in the north raising their own taxes.

He said that his priority is to ‘take control’ of existing public spending in areas such as work and pensions.

“Let’s not run before we can walk,” he said.

The mayor was speaking on BBC radio 4’s Today Show, ahead of a meeting in Rotherham where prime minister Boris Johnson promised northern communities ‘control over the things that matter to them’.

Asked by presenter John Humphreys if Mr Burnham would like to raise taxes ‘in the way that Westminster raises taxes,’ he said: “I would be quite happy to eventually get to that position.”

“Really? A northern tax?” he was asked.

“Well, eventually. I mean, there’s tourist taxes that are used in other cities around the world,” Mr Burnham said.

He would first like to see greater control over existing public spending, he said.

“I have some control over health with our devolved health system but not over the department of work and pensions budget. So it’s that kind of devolution that would help Greater Manchester go to the next level,” he said.

“It’s not about eroding national standards when it comes to benefit rates or NHS treatment times. It’s about providing services differently, working from the bottom up with more community and voluntary organisations,” he said.

If Greater Manchester had control over work and pensions, he said, it would not ‘go down the route of a ‘tick box’ regime but would instead ‘come at it a different way’.

He said: “We have a measure of devolution on department of work and pensions in Greater Manchester through our Working Well programme and we’ve got double the rate of getting people who have been long-term out of work back to work.”

“That’s what I mean when I say devolution in Greater Manchester is working,” he said. 

He also argued that as Westminster is becoming more ‘divided and dysfunctional,’ the north is becoming more ‘unified and organised’.

“I think that’s why this is a moment for devolution in our country. Can you think of any other idea out there at the moment that unites people across the political spectrum? I can’t. Devolution does unite people and that’s why we should get on with it,” he said.

Mari Eccles, Local Democracy Reporter

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