The nine boroughs of east London have agreed to explore the possibility of grabbing powers from central Government and City Hall to create a single voice pressing the concerns of the region.
More than 120 politician and officials agreed on a Statement Of Intent to push ahead with the idea at a conference in Stratford on Friday hosted by Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales.
A prospectus will be published next month detailing the vision of the nine, which include Newham, Tower Hamlets and Greenwich.
Sir Robin said: “This conference has been a resounding success and demonstrates our boroughs joint commitment to releasing the true potential of this combined area.
“Devolution is an important subject for these councils and the discussions have revealed exactly why it is necessary.
“I look forward to exploring this further and building a case we can take to central government and the Mayor of London.”
Devolved powers would give the area greater autonomy for a region bigger than any provincial city.
Recent moves in Scotland and Greater Manchester have given greater impetus to the devolution debate with the eastern councils concerned that City Hall does not reflect local needs.
The rapid rise in the population (currently 2.5million), the opportunity for economic development and housing as well as the challenges of a low wages and poor health demand tailored answers, say the nine – Barking & Dagenham, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
Greenwich leader Cllr Denise Hyland said: “Other parts of the country have benefited from being allowed to have a greater say in their own affairs and these discussions will explore ways in which we could make even more local decisions that affect local people.”
Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman said: “East London is a dynamic area which is quickly becoming the powerhouse of the country.
“With Canary Wharf, the City and the fantastic regeneration of Stratford post Olympics it is only fitting for the nine councils to be given more powers to enable us to fully realise the potential of the region.”
Wharf editor Giles Broadbent writes:
The watchword of the post-Olympic regeneration of east London was and is “convergence”, making this distinct region a casual adjunct to the West End and City, not a separate area divided by culture and outlook.
Great strides have been made towards that goal. As we report this week, a major Chinese investment firm is pumping £1billion into the Royal Docks to create a significant commercial hub.
As the experts will tell you, inward investors do not see a region 15 minutes from Central London (by Crossrail) as an outlying suburb or a far-flung enclave.
The billions of the Olympics, the billions of the Royal Docks, the expansion of Canary Wharf and the burgeoning knowledge economy centred on Shoreditch have helped to fast-forward convergence perhaps by decades.
But there’s no denying that the discrepancy between the shiny and new and the impoverished and dilapidated is still stark. It still requires particular answers to create a meaningful exchange between the two.
The socially disenfranchised east Londoners have an answer on their doorsteps – which is both a boon and the frustration. So near but yet so far.
The drive to get them on the conveyor belt to prosperity requires a range of initiatives underpinned by a cohesive vision.
Education, jobs, training, housing, health, skills go hand in hand with infrastructure improvements and private investment.
All this may require a single voice from the region if it is properly motivated and can convince that it is value for money and not another goldmine for politicians to plunder or arena for infighting and ego.
This is an interesting initiative that deserves to run its course.