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June 30, 2017

The precarious Tory DUP deal is an opportunity for UK cities to flex their muscle

By GlobalData Travel & Tourism

Buoyed by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the Conservatives successfully passed the Queen’s Speech and formed a British government, but what does this mean for cities and devolved power?

If we treat the agreement forged by the Tories and the DUP as a full coalition rather than the more limited and profitable arrangement it is, this new government has a working majority of 13; the lowest working majority in government since 1974.

The Queen’s Speech itself contained little from the Conservative manifesto, and the audacity of the deal arranged with the DUP to prop up the government will help solidify opposition.

Already we are seeing widely supported measures being heavily whipped against and the government forced to make concessions to backbenchers.

For any contentious piece of legislation the government can suffer up to seven defections; with Brexit looming and the Tory party quietly drawing up battle plans and looking for someone to grasp the poisoned chalice that the PM position is likely to become, we will see some very contentious legislation and strong temptations for bulk defections.

After all, a limited block of 10 votes just sold for £1bn with a team to arrange future deals established; no doubt even small factions within the Conservative party are weighing up how much they could get for their votes on a key issue.

An opportunity for cities

Our cities then must operate to the backdrop of a hamstrung central government.

The inevitable decentralisation of power, whether intended or the result of hampered oversight, grants an opportunity.

City councils can take a firmer grasp of their own assets and have more say in local development.

Since increased government spending seems unlikely, councils have to perform a great many functions on a very tight budget, meaning now is the time to turn to innovative solutions and careful planning.

Empowered local government would be needed to make the required decisions; the chaos that British politics is set to be promises to deliver some of these powers by default.

The current government is precarious enough that there are many doubts as to how long it will last; we can only hope for a return to regularity in the near future.

Should a more sound government be formed power will no doubt flow back to Westminster and then there may well be little time for mayors to prove the benefits of devolved power.

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