Dealer’s choice

Bill McKenzieBill McKenzie on widening the opportunity of so called ‘City Deals’ to more local authorities

This evening, during Report on the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, Peers will debate an amendment calling on Ministers to consider proposals for the extension of so called ‘City Deals’. 

City Deals are agreements reached between a local authority and government to devolve certain powers and funding, following a period of negotiation. They build on the achievements of the last Labour government with multi-area agreements and city-region deals, but the devolutionary progress is too narrow and too slow.

The amendment – tabled by myself and my frontbench colleague Andrew Adonis – would require the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to consider extending this opportunity. That would allow more local authorities to negotiate to agree certain devolved economic development powers in order to boost growth in their area. 

We fully support the proposals in the current City Deals, and understand that devolved powers and funding for the second round are likely to be concluded by the end of 2013. But we are concerned that other areas risk losing out on opportunities, leading potentially to two-speed regional growth – with city deal areas motoring ahead. It is essential therefore that we develop a strategy that will work for the whole country, to boost growth for all regions rather than just limited parts of the country. 

Adopting our approach would require the government to maintain momentum beyond the identified urban areas. It does not prescribe that all councils must end up with a deal, or the same deal, but they should at least have the opportunity to be engaged.

As it stands, this Bill is unlikely to do anything to support growth. One way of addressing this startling omission is to look into the prospect of greater devolution of power and responsibilities to more local leaders and those best placed to understand the challenges they face in their area. 

In opposition, the Tories promised to devolve power. But after more than two and half years in government, they are failing to deliver real change, centralising power and decision-making in many policy areas. So much for localism.

Lord Bill McKenzie of Luton is Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government in the Lords

Published 12th March 2013

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