Merseyside and South Yorkshire move closer to combined authorities

12 Aug 13
Plans to create combined authorities in two English regions have taken a step forward after details were published for new institutions in Merseyside and South Yorkshire.

By Richard Johnstone | 13 August 2013

Plans to create combined authorities in two English regions have taken a step forward after details were published for new institutions in Merseyside and South Yorkshire.


Six councils in Merseyside released their proposal for a new authority to boost economic development, and take over the transport functions of the existing Merseytravel agency, yesterday.

At the same time, the Department for Communities and Local Government published its consultation on plans to create a similar authority across nine authority areas in South Yorkshire after councils agreed the scheme. Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield, Bassetlaw, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Dales, and North East Derbyshire authorities have agreed to establish the authority, which will also have responsibility for transport, economic development and regeneration.

The moves are the latest steps to create city-region combined authorities, which the eight core cities in England agreed to examine after reaching City Deals with the government. A combined authority already exists in Greater Manchester, and plans are also being developed in West Yorkshire, the North East and the Sheffield City Region.

In both Merseyside and South Yorkshire, each authority would be represented by the leader or elected mayor, and decisions will be made on majority voting, although the authority will aim to reach decisions by consensus.

Local government minister Brandon Lewis said that the moves showed councils could benefit from working closer together.

‘By encouraging joint working by local authorities across South Yorkshire and more widely, and having all local authority leaders in a room together at one time, decisions can be made quickly,’ he said.

‘This boosts economic growth and drives forward business success. Looking at strategic decision making in this way recognises that an area’s economy, its roads and its rail don’t stop at a local authority boundary.’

The Merseyside proposal comes after the councils undertook a governance review to determine how to ‘further strengthen the delivery of strategic economic development, regeneration and transport to increase economic growth and jobs, and provide greater transparency’.

The report concluded that existing business support services could be improved through a single authority that would co-ordinate development across Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and the Wirral.

The group of councils insisted that the single authority would not mean the creation of a ‘super council’. Instead it would formalise existing arrangements, and would help the region in bids for funding from the government’s Single Local Growth Fund for Local Enterprise Partnerships from 2015/16. The authority could also act as the accountable body for other forms of funding, including from the European Union.

Today’s consultation stated that the purpose of the combined authority was 'to promote economic development and regeneration, and to develop and implement transport policies in its area in accordance with statutory duties’. The report said there was ‘latent [economic] potential within the Liverpool City Region’ – if it performed at the level of the national average output, an additional £8.2bn of output would be generated per annum. To achieve this would require creation of an additional 18,500 businesses and 90,000 jobs, the report said.

‘A combined authority offers opportunities for alignment between these goals,’ it added. ‘After evaluating the current available evidence and the potential governance options available, the current view is that the City Region should explore a Liverpool City Region Combined Authority model, and to include the functions currently exercised by the Merseyside Integrated Transport Authority and Halton Borough Council’s strategic transport functions, as the preferred governance option.’

Following the consultation, which runs until September 6, the authorities will make a final recommendation. If agreed, a submission will then be made to the government, which needs to approve the plan, by the end of September. The combined authority could then be introduced on April 1 2014.


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