This week the cause for devolution might have found an unlikely ally: the Church of England. In extracts from a new book of essays quoted in the Daily Mail yesterday, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, accuses the coalition government of letting down cities outside London.
Our economy appears to be… a tale of two cities – one being a growing and constantly improving London and the South East generally, and the other being most, but not all cities, alike in that they are each trapped in apparently inevitable decline.
The book, titled On Rock or Sand?, was edited by Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who writes that entire cities have been “cast aside” in recent years, while the poor have been “left behind”. Ahead of the book’s release, Sentmu said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph that parties’ obsession with the “swing vote” of Middle England (middle-aged, often right-leaning voters who tend to live in villages and towns) has shifted attention away from city-dwellers, minorities and the poor.
Okay, so neither Archbishop seems to have referred to devolution explicitly. But the emphasis on moving the focus away from London lends weight to the argument that other cities should be granted greater powers of self-government.
Cities also pop up in Faith in the City, a Church of England report from 1985, which criticised Thatcher’s urban policies and approach to inequality. Who knew cities were so high on the church’s agenda?
Update: On Twitter, @ThomasForth has pointed out that there’s a parallel between the push for devolution to cities and the church’s attempts to merge its dioceses in West Yorkshire.