The move to give the private sector a bigger say has emerged from the Greater Manchester authorities which are negotiating with the government on plans for the conurbation’s multi-area agreement (MAA).
They are proposing that the entire MAA should be overseen by a cabinet made up of the 10 council leaders represented on the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities which would be advised by a business leadership council.
But the authorities have said that more detailed decision making on individual service areas covered by the MAA should be undertaken by six commissions including representatives from local businesses and other relevant interest groups, such as health trusts.
Sean Harriss, chief executive of Bolton MBC, said that the private sector’s representation on the commissions would build on the close relationships Greater Manchester’s councils had forged with the conurbation’s key stakeholders.
Under the AGMA’s plans, the commissions would have powers to make decisions on services where responsibility is pooled under the terms of the MAA, such as transport and economic development, both of which have been identified as priorities in Manchester’s draft agreement.
The aim of incorporating non-council representatives in the MAA governance arrangements is to bring key players from outside local government.
Dermot Finch, director of the Centre for Cities think tank, called on the government to outline steps for giving business a bigger say in councils’ decision-making processes when it publishes its sub-national review (SNR) implementation plan next week.
The SNR said that councils should engage much more closely with businesses to drive forward their economic development plans.
Mr Finch said: “We need to get unelected people, such as the Chambers of Commerce, playing more of a role in decision making without compromising the role of elected members.”
Chris Fletcher, policy director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said: “What’s got to be clear is that this is not about removing elected members from the decision-making process."