Page last updated at 13:15 GMT, Thursday, 8 December 2011

More power for England's largest cities

Cities Minister Greg Clark has set out plans to give more power to England's biggest cities.

These include Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield.

Mr Clark said the plans would boost economic growth and put cities "back in charge of their economic destinies".

But Labour, whose urgent question summoned Mr Clark to the despatch box to make a statement on 8 December 2011, feared wealthier parts of the country would be preferred for investment from new businesses.

Addressing the Commons, Mr Clark said: "If you consider that our jobs in the future are likely to come from knowledge-intensive industries, cities are ideally placed to be the hosts of those industries.

"Cities where people are in close proximity to each other, can share knowledge, can share insights - they will be the cradles of growth in the future."

He demanded that councils "provide strong and accountable leadership, improve efficiency and outcomes and be innovative in their approach", in return for the new powers.

And he insisted the eight were not being favoured over other cities, telling the Commons: "We want to start with the eight cities but the vision we have extends to the whole of urban Britain."

Shadow local government secretary Hilary Benn said Labour supported "strong and innovative local government" but argued that local communities "really need… a change of course", as he attacked the government's whole economic approach.

He criticised "substantial, front-loaded and unfair" cuts to local government ad accused ministers of "balancing the books on the backs of the poor".

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