Communities minister David Miliband is to fast-track the government’s plans for devolution by announcing a series of city summits to be held in major urban regions outside London.
The eight meetings will begin in September and lead up to the State of the Cities report in January. They will be a forum for those involved in running and regenerating large urban areas to debate which responsibilities should be devolved from Whitehall to cities such as Bristol, Nottingham and Sheffield.
Speaking at the Core Cities conference in Leeds, Miliband suggested new powers could include greater responsibility for convening police and health services. A poll at the event, dubbed the “C8”, showed that 73% of the audience believe the potential of city regions cannot be realised through existing political structures.
The minister also hinted at a significant change in the local authority housing function. He said it would now take on two roles: working with social services to support the vulnerable and helping to plan mixed communities. Further details were to come at the National Housing Federation conference in September, he added.
Miliband denied that the successful London Olympic bid would have a negative effect on regional cities; rather, he said, there would be a big material benefit for the whole country.
He said: “I don’t buy it any more when people tell me that the future of the North is held back by pushing prosperity in the South. We mustn’t allow that fiction to arise. Anyway, London taxpayers will be contributing themselves to the future of their city.”