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Should Immigration be Devolved to a City Level?

A recent report from thinktank RSA has called for more power and responsibility to be devolved from Whitehall to UK cities at the same time that additional devolved powers are being negotiated for Scotland.

According to the report, by the RSA City Growth Commission, devolution has the potential to boost economic output in the UK’s 15 largest metros by £79 billion per year – worth approximately 5% of current GDP.

Immigration is one of the key responsibilities that should be devolved to a more local level, argues the thinktank, as cities across the UK are struggling to find highly-skilled talent.

The report finds that that SMEs struggle to meet their recruitment needs through immigration because the system is costly and complex. It concluded that if the UK persists in restricting immigration in order to meet its (growth inhibiting) net migration target, there is a risk that households in all metros will suffer in the long-term as GDP and GDP per person falls and average incomes are squeezed.

The thinktank recommends reforming national immigration policies in favour of taking a metro-led approach, including lifting the cap on Tier 2 skilled immigration to signal that the UK is keen to attract the brightest and best.

“With Devo Max being negotiated for Scotland, we need to see Devo Met for our British cities on a similar timescale,” said Ben Lucas, Chair of Public Services, RSA and City Growth Commissioner. ”In a world in which cities are the new drivers of growth, decentralising our political economy will boost GDP and enable our major metros to achieve their social and economic potential.”

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