Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Expert round up: how to make the most of city deals

Share in the advice of our expert panel on how cities can best use new powers over transport, education and infrastructure
A view of the sun shining through the BBCs media centre in Salford
Salford, Greater Manchester – one of the first eight core cities to sign a city deal in 2012. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Neil McInroy is chief executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies

Whitehall needs to be straight: What powers is it willing to devolve? Central government need to cut the process, horsetrading and lay down their red lines. Then cities can have a proper debate on whether they agree with the possibilities or want to play along.
Favouratism must be addressed: City deals need to be underpinned and hooked back into a new national economic narrative. The treasury needs to do things which favour a variety of localities. We've had decades of treasury policy which has favoured the city. Whitehall needs to be more committed to re-addressing this.

Adam Bryan is senior policy manager at Essex county council

Build a relationship between private and public sectors: It is about involving the private sector at the fulcrum of a reformed skills system, where they make the decisions to ensure that provision is driven by employer need. It's about them co-leading the decision making around the major infrastructure investments which will catalyse growth.

Lorna Gibbons is economic development officer at the Borough of Poole

Does competitive bidding help? It depends what the funding is intended to achieve – who and where can deliver the greatest impact. The second wave of city deals was a competition but in the end the government decided to accept all offers for delivery of growth.

Allison Ogden-Newton is chair of the Transition Institute

Geographical boundaries are a concern: Looking at areas of European growth, success stories cannot be captured with the use of city boundaries or terms like urban or rural. It's the magic of what will work that has captured local imagination and the vision of successful leaders.

Tom Stannard is director of policy and communications atBlackburn with Darwen borough council

We need strong partnerships: There's a stronger recognition now that local growth is best driven by meaningful local partnerships that know their areas. I think, irrespective of boundaries, the debate is there to be won on the proper local settlement that should come from this in the medium term.

Darryl Eyers is deputy director and head of economic planning atStaffordshire county council

Do we risk less innovation in the next round of city deals? It will utlimately come down to the appetite of the area for innovation and how compelling a case you can make to government. The cabinet office is very supportive and the first wave has shown that if you have a good enough idea then ministers will want to support it – whether it fits neatly into a core package or not. However, I think the real proof will be seen in November.
Genuine commitment is needed: Leaders of local areas (beyond the city) at a political and business level must be able to work collaboratively, identify genuine priorities, and be ready to challenge the status quo. They must be clear on what is required of government to make the deal work. Genuine commitment from government is also needed to back local areas to make the right decisions.

Lord Shipley is adviser to the minister for cities, Greg Clark

Cities must demonstrate that devolution is sustainable: The truth is that England is hugely dependent on London. The question remains, how do we drive growth outside London? If accountabilities are 'multiple, complex and overlapping' we need to work out how to make them work, as opposed to being barriers.

Phillip Woolley is a partner at Grant Thornton

Let's reward good investment: The initial round of city deals were in my view, perhaps with the exception of Manchester, missing the underpinning of a robust and flexible resourcing model that rewarded good investment decisions and growth performance.

David Marlow is director of Third Life Economics

It's a matter of faith: The faith in local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and the faith in national agencies seem to be real issues that need further work in putting government's response to Heseltine into practice

Giles Rocca is head of policy and strategy at Westminster city council

Powers need to be fully devolved: I think that there is a risk that governance can be used as a tool for central government to decide how quickly and how far it will go around devolving powers. There are caveats in Heseltine's report about this. In a sense it turns into another bar to jump through.

Tom Bolton is senior analyst at the Centre for Cities thinktank

What happens next is important: Post budget, decisions on whether the single pot will include skills and employment funding are important. We won't know this until the spending review in June. It's a big test for Heseltine implementation.
Businesses can help to get local economic policy right: LEPs need to show that they can represent the wider business constituency in their areas, small or medium enterprises as well as the big employers, for a true picture of business needs and priorities.
You can read the discussion in full here
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