City Deal powers ‘should be given to all areas’
By Richard Johnstone | 30 October 2012
Ministers have been urged to let councils across England take on more economic development powers as part of the City Deals programme, after 20 areas were shortlisted yesterday for greater devolution.
Leicestershire, Reading and Plymouth are among the places asked to submit ‘bids’ for the powers. Under this second wave of deals under the programme, only the proposals likely to make the biggest difference to local economies will be approved, cities minister Greg Clark told Public Finance.
The Centre for Cities think-tank welcomed the decision to go ahead with a second round of agreements following the first eight deals with core cities in July.
However, the group added that both government and the 28 areas now needed to ensure ‘sufficient resources’ were dedicated to the scheme.
In a briefing on the plans, the think-tank said there was still ‘more to do on wave one’, including monitoring their progress and agreeing to any further work that might be needed to keep them on track.
It added that the government also needed a ‘cities policy beyond City Deals’.
The accords reached with the core cities should now provide a ‘menu of relatively simple policies’ that should be offered to cities so far excluded and county councils, the briefing added. ‘Local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships which meet certain qualifying criteria, such as strong governance arrangements, should be able to implement some of these policies without needing to enter into a City Deal process’, it concluded.
The Local Government Association also reiterated its call for deals to be offered to more of local government. Peter Box, chair of the LGA’s economy and transport board, said today: ‘Giving local areas more power and greater financial support to identify and nurture business opportunities is absolutely essential to economic recovery and the announcement of the second wave of city deals is another step in the right direction.
‘It is important that all areas that want to bring councils, businesses and colleges together to promote local growth are supported in that ambition. We see absolutely no reason why City Deals should not be offered to all eligible areas that want one.’
Also responding to the announcement, Westminster City Council head of strategy Giles Roca, who is secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on local growth, said the second round of the deals was to be ‘wholeheartedly applauded’.
The programme gives ‘local areas the powers needed to shape and promote their own economies’, and should be offered more widely, he added.
‘The important thing is not for the government to stop here but to extend the concept of City Deals even further, taking in those areas that have not yet benefited. That includes all the other county areas and also London.
‘In the capital for example, the tri-borough arrangement between Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham sets a template for what can be done. It’s now time to get those working under a City Deal banner.’
Localis chief executive Alex Thomson agreed the deals should be expanded. He told PF: ‘All councils can play their part in helping to stimulate the economic growth the country needs. We therefore hope it will not be long before other parts of the country, including county councils, are given the chance to argue their case for the devolution of powers and freedoms that will allow them to devise and implement bespoke solutions to strengthen their local economies.’