Local government is by far the most trusted tier of administration in northern England, according to a poll published in the run-up to the European and local government elections. The report, by think tank IPPR North, also finds that people living in England favour local authorities having greater powers.
Drawing on evidence from the latest Future of England Survey, the report says that 39% of people living in England think that local authorities should have more powers, compared with 14% who think that local authorities should have fewer. It suggests that support for greater powers is particularly strong in the regions of the northeast and northwest of England - and that a "Boris of the North" is needed to provide strong leadership and make the case for further powers and controls.
People feel most strongly attached to their local tier of administration: 80% of people said they felt closely attached to their local area, compared with 75% to England, 66% to Britain and 26% to Europe.
Remarkably, trust in local councils is almost twice as high as trust in parliament. The report shows that 64% of people have trust in local councils compared with just 36% of people who have trust in parliament. Councillors are more trusted than any other type of politician: 28% of people think councillors tell the truth always or most of the time, compared with 24% for MPs, 15% for government ministers and 14% for politicians generally.
The report argues that in places where powers are clear and territorially defined, such as London, there is a greater sense of local authority effectiveness. It says that the UK government has recognised the strength of attachment in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London - offering them new powers and institutions in recent years, but argues that devolution must go further in the rest of England. It therefore recommends that city-regions outside of London should be given more powers over public spending.
Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: "Local identities are important and, alongside the rise in Englishness, we are also witnessing an even stronger attachment to local places. We now more Essex than English, Brummie than British. Local attachment is felt strongest outside of London and the southeast and translates into calls for more powerful local institutions. The Scottish referendum later in the year is already shining a light on the so called English question; central government should now listen and respond to the public appetite for more powers for the city-regions outside London."
The Future of England: the local dimension: http://www.ippr.org/publication/55/12120/the-future-of-england-the-local-dimension