Devolution – secrecy, smoke and mirrors

Devolution – secrecy, smoke and mirrors

By Ritchie Hunter

When George Osborne says something’s a good deal, he means it’s good for his rich friends! When Robert Hough, of Peel Holdings, praises a deal, you can bet it’s all about boosting business. So why have all the Merseyside ‘Labour’ Council leaders signed a devolution agreement with these free marketeers? And why have negotiations been held in secret with NO public engagement?

“Today is a historic day for the Liverpool city region and a historic day for the Northern Powerhouse.” George Osborne.(1)

“I know I speak for everybody in the room when I say that a devolution deal will only succeed if it is materially shaped by the views of the private sector.” Robert Hough, Chair of the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.(2)

We can see what devolved powers mean for Osborne and Hough: juicy privatisation of public services parcelled up into bite sized chunks; tearing up of national agreements on pay and conditions; the blaming of councils for cuts and not government.

While the privateers rub their hands together, eyeing up our remaining public services, Joe Anderson, whose catch phrase is, “It’s the only game in town”, has been appointed to lead the city region’s ‘super cabinet’.

Major corporations have scrawled a big ‘X’ for treasure on Health and Social Care. And if we go along the Greater Manchester route, which seems likely, then this will be part of the devolution. Liverpool City Council has plans for a Joint Commissioning of integrated Health and Social Care, covering adults, children, and public health using existing NHS budgets. The ‘integration’ agenda here is really one of disintegration; of the NHS!

Devolution of Health and Social Care will mean that:

  • Costs will come from the NHS budget. However, as there is no spare money in the NHS, this means implementing more cuts – with real fears that integration of health and social care will lead to the plundering of already inadequate NHS budgets
  • Penalties if targets, such as 3% reduction in admissions, are not met
  • Blame for cuts will be handed to the Local Authority
  • There is real threat to national standards, national treatments, and national accountability
  • It will result in attacks on conditions of work and pay
  • It will mean means-tested charges, ending the NHS principle of services that are funded from general taxes.

With the massive shortfall in NHS budgets, how can devolution to the regions possibly help, and why all the secrecy?

Image: Privateers and politicians, signing the deal that will allow businesses to grab the remaining public parts of our services (3)


  1. 17 November 2015
  2. 17 November 2015
  3. Liverpool Echo website 17 November 2015

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