BOM comments with usual intelligence on a presentation to Policy Exchange by Paul Romer on the idea of Charter Cities, and suggests we might explore the option for our terminally ill Northern metropolitan relicts.
It was Heseltine who tried to prove the worth of the Urban Development Corporation during the last Conservative government; an area independent of normal local government planning controls. The success rate was mixed, primarily because the freedoms simply didn't go far enough. For an example of real success, we need to go much further back in history.
The rise of the Charter Borough during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in England created unprecedented wealth and paved the way for the establishment of a new English middle class under the Tudors. Typically, a group of merchants would petition the crown for Charter status; that in return for a direct annual payment to the crown, they would be free of feudal lordship and dues. They had rights to be tried in their own courts, to levy charges and taxes within their burghs, to govern themselves and to trade freely. The guilds and the burgesses, not the knights and their overlords, ruled.
Today, the key features of a Charter Borough would be freedom from regulatory laws. Most Criminal and Civil law could continue unchanged, but tax and duty laws, minimum wage laws, employment laws, planning and licensing laws and all the panoply of State regulation would be suspended in favour of a Civic Code devised by the Burgesses themselves with the democratic consent of the people. The Charter Borough would agree to an annual payment to central government and that would be it. Levying taxes and funding administative costs, including the Borough's own police and tax officers, would be up to the individual boroughs.
But, as BOM points out, most of our regulatory law now comes not from Westminster but from Brussels, and we're not trusted or allowed to make our own decisions on such things any more.
Such radical measures are not fantasy; given boldness, and ridding ourselves of the Leviathan of the EU, we could create unprecendented wealth and competitiveness in areas that now offer only a stunted and desperate life on Welfare and an early death to many of our fellow citizens.