Fears party leaders promised too much to Scotland are “water under the bridge” - Norfolk MP says
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Fears the Government offered too much to the Scots are 'water under the bridge' and promises must be lived up to, a Norfolk MP has said.
Keith Simpson made the comments as it emerged that Holyrood is to be handed new responsibilities over income tax and welfare as part of a deal on devolution drawn up in the aftermath of the Scottish independence referendum.
The Smith Commission, which was set up to examine what further powers could be transferred to Edinburgh, has recommended that the Scottish Parliament should be able to set its own income tax rates, with all of the cash earned staying north of the border.
As the dossier was announced, an open letter to Westminster signed by the Local Government association - which represents English town halls - said they must be next.
It said: 'We leaders and supporters of local government in England, of all parties and types of local government, congratulate Scotland on the measure of devolution they have worked for and that is now proposed by the Smith Commission.
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'We call upon central government and party leaders to recognise that local government should be the vehicle for devolution in England and to now negotiate with us using a similar non-party commission to agree a comparable package of measures for local government in England, which can appear in the manifestos and be enacted after the general election.'
Broadland MP Mr Simpson, a military historian, said that the two world wars had seen power brought to the capital.
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He said there were questions about what was going to happen to the rural areas, and the county towns and cities.
'We have had regional assemblies and they proved ineffective and not very popular,' he said.
But said 'many people would say at the moment the county and city councils don't appear to be able to address and deal with the problems they face now'.
'They [councils] would understandably say we are hamstrung by lack of money and independence by Whitehall.
He also claimed there was a view that councils were unable to attract 'really high quality people' to be the officers and councillors. 'A counter argument to that is if you gave them real power and real money, suddenly a lot of men and women in Norfolk would say 'actually I'm very interested in the concept of public service. I can make a real difference there'.
'You would encourage people to participate more fully in local elections,' he added.
'I could be courageous and say George Osborne is right. IT is a risk, but if we don't do this we can say we are making a real effort to give you a say in this. If the public say we don't want to know. Then fine, they must expect decisions to be made as we have traditionally made them in the past.'
The Chancellor was also warned about the impact of his promise of Air Passenger Duty control could have on the English regions.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls warned that failing to introduce a mechanism to prevent regional airports being undercut by rivals north of the border could be a breach of the Smith Commission's principle that devolution should not adversely affect other parts of the UK.
The Scottish National Party administration at Holyrood wants initially to halve and eventually abolish APD but the agreement to grant Scotland the freedom to set its own rate has raised fears in cities such as Newcastle and Manchester.