East London councils meet to discuss devolution plan

Aerial view of east London
Image caption The nine councils said east London had its own "complex and significant challenges"

Nine councils in east London have met to set out their plan for regional devolution.

Leaders from the borough councils discussed their ideas and started developing a business plan to show how they could take control from central government in key areas.

The boroughs taking part represent 2.5m residents in the capital.

The government said London boroughs had "greater control" than other places, but it was "open to discussions".

Directly elected mayors and leaders from Barking and Dagenham, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest met at the conference.

The group said the current system of government, involving the Mayor of London and London Assembly, had an "important strategic role" but did not take into account the "distinct characteristics" of the east region.

Image caption Topics discussed included employment, education and skills as well as business growth

During the conference, held in Newham, issues including housing, employment and social care were discussed as well as the ambitions of the potential partnership.

Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham said: "The Scottish referendum has reignited the debate about the unfinished business of devolution for England's cities and regions.

"It is important that London boroughs, with their distinct and different characteristics, make a major contribution to this debate."

But a spokesman for the government's Department for Communities and Local Government said: "London boroughs already have greater control over their finances through measures such as Business Rates Retention, and greater planning powers for the Mayor.

'Failing Londoners'

"The Government is open to discussions about possible deals with any area that is interested in greater decentralisation of powers."

The councils are calling for regional devolution as they believe they share "many complex and significant challenges" which would better dealt with at a regional level.

Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe said: "Whitehall's 'one-size-fits-all' approach is failing Londoners and threatening their future quality of life.

"Devolution will instead enable boroughs to make a difference on these key issues, tailoring services to local needs and being accountable for the results."

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