Whether or not business rate retention is a fair or effective mechanism, with the economy flat-lining local government should have every incentive to play a vital role in economic development regardless.
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In the absence of any semblance of a national industrial policy, local authorities can frame and shape the conditions and collaborations necessary for private investment; they can take a proactive role in leading housing, transport and other infrastructure developments; and through their commissioning and procurement they can play an important role in local ‘market-making’.
Local authorities also have a key role within and alongside Local Enterprise Partnerships. Aligning investment, housing, planning, skills, welfare and transport strategies will be fundamental to the success of any functional economy and local authorities need to act as willing brokers in this process, arguing for the additional powers promised by Greg Clark’s drive for decentralisation.
But the economy works on many scales and local authorities must accept that neither they, nor indeed Local Enterprise Partnerships, hold all the keys to economic growth. For this reason IPPR North has established a Northern Economic Futures Commission to develop a 10-year strategy for economic growth across the North of England.
Launched in July with a Call for Evidence running until late October, commissioners will consider where economic growth in the North of England is most likely to come from and what role public policymakers – including local government – might have in stimulating recovery. North or South, finding new ideas to generate economic growth that is fair and sustainable must lie at the heart of local government in the years to come. For more details go to www.ippr.org/ipprnorth.
Ed Cox, chief executive, IPPR North, Twitter.com/edcox_ippr