LABOUR have promised an English Devolution bill with more powers for cities and counties if they triumph at next month’s polls.

Party leader Ed Miliband yesterday launched its manifesto, with a fiscal-responsibility pledge and promises of a rail-fare freeze, an increase in the minimum wage to £8 per hour by 2019, a ban on zero-hours contracts, a national childcare service, and votes for 16 and 17 year olds.

The first page of the 84-page document gives a “budget responsibility lock”, a commitment to no new borrowing and reductions to the deficit. On transport, the manifesto also sets out a plan for a public-sector company to take on train franchises like the East Coast mainline, which was recently taken back into the private sector.

The devolution pledges include £30 billion in funding for city and county regions, along with new powers over economic development, skills, employment, housing, and business support and new local Public Accounts Committees to examine the spending of the new funds and specific powers to stop betting shops taking over high streets.