Balance of Power
First up this morning is a meeting with Edward Pysden, newly appointed interim Chair of the Board of Manchester Airport Group. Manchester Airport, whatever ones views on the very real environmental issues around aviation, is a key element in the economy not only of the city but the whole of the North of England. High fuel prices and the credit crunch are having an impact on airlines like every other retail business, but I am confident that Manchester Airport (alongside other airports in MAG) is sufficiently robust and well-run to weather the economic storm.
As well as its wider economic role, MAG also currently provides a dividend income to the ten Greater Manchester Councils that own it, and that's worth £14.3million to the City of Manchester this year, the equivalent of around 13% on Council Tax., and this is in addition to rent Manchester Airport pays to the ten councils for the land it occupies. Those people like Peel Holdings, themselves airport operators, who talk about us selling the Airport have yet to explain how we would make up for that loss of income.
This afternoon I go to London, to the House of Commons, to give evidence to the Communities and Local Government Select Committee on the balance of power between central and local government. The UK is one of the most centralised countries in Europe, and all though some devolution and de-centralisation has taken place over the past decade we still don't have enough freedom to take decisions locally to reflect local circumstances, too many decisions are taken in Whitehall rather than the Town Hall, we don't have enough power locally to make sure public services are joined up across the whole range of service providers, and we are much too dependent on Central Government for finance. So that should give you a clue about the evidence I'll be giving later today. I'm also looking forward to the train journey as I have a mass of papers to read and the two hours there and two hours back will be a welcome opportunity to catch up.