Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne asks his constituents and fellow citizens.
I’ve spent this week in Glasgow campaigning to keep our country together. I passionately believe that the challenges we have in Hodge Hill are easier to solve if we remain together as one United Kingdom. We had a stake in our Scottish neighbours voting to stay together.
All party leaders have now vowed to devolve more power to Scotland. Today Ed Miliband has gone a step further and proposed a UK Constitutional Convention to debate more powers to cities like ours in Birmingham.
So I’m now asking what do you think are the powers that need handing over to Birmingham?
Today I’ve asked Birmingham’s leaders to organise a Birmingham Constitutional Convention. We should debate a simple question: what should be Westminster’s vow to Birmingham?
In Victorian times, Birmingham was known as “the best governed city in the world”; above all we were known for thinking radically. One the most famous MPs to represent the city, the great John Bright once said, “Birmingham is radical as the sea is salt”.
Today I say, let’s be the heirs to that tradition. Let’s move quickly to organise a constitutional convention of our own. I think there are five key powers we need – these are the key powers we need to get our city back to work:
1. Powers, like those in London, to raise revenue from local businesses to reinvest in the city – or to finance tax breaks for innovative or small businesses.
2. Power to help lead a regional Transport Commission, with integrated powers like TfL, and to unlock Birmingham Airport’s potential to become Britain’s fourth hub airport.
3. Power to lead school improvement, to boost the local skills base and improve ‘coasting schools’.
4. Power over Skills Funding Agency budgets, to help boost apprenticeships and gear skills spending to the needs of local employers.
5. Power over housing budgets, including powers to keep savings from Housing Benefit delivered by getting people back to work, to allow the city to help shift money into building homes – providing much needed construction employment.
Next week, I’ll publish a longer draft plan – including thoughts on culture and the arts – to help get the debate in gear. Let me know what you think – and as this debate unfolds – please get involved!