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Healey disappointed by SNR debate

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Local government minister John Healey has told LGC of his disappointment at the “narrow” level of debate provoked by his flagship economic development review.

Speaking exclusively to LGC, Mr Healey complained the sub-national review of economic development and regeneration (SNR) had been misinterpreted as simply a “redrawing of the regional organogram”.

His comments will cast doubt over the government’s willingness to allow joint accountability arrangements.

“Given the breadth of the SNR, I’m disappointed by how narrow the recent debate has been,” he said.

“It has been dominated by institutional self-interest; by a preoccupation with process, not purpose; by organisational positioning, not the outcomes we need to bring more jobs and prosperity to all our regions and local areas.”

However, he did praise councils for putting pro-economic growth targets such as getting young people into employment or training and increasing the number of new businesses.

Mr Healey’s comments come ahead of the government’s imminent response to the latest consultation on the SNR. The review proposes making regional development agencies (RDAs) the regional planning body.

The Local Government Association had struck an agreement with the RDAs that regional leaders forums should be given a veto if they can’t agree on joint regional strategies.

But Paul Raynes, the LGA’s programme director for regeneration and transport, said Mr Healey’s comments cast doubt over the government’s willingness to accept such an arrangement.

“I would be delighted to see a government response that [accepts this agreement], he said. “But to hear what John Healey has said, it doesn’t sound terrific.”

Meanwhile, Steve Broomhead, chief executive of the North West Development Agency, told LGC the government could pilot the new arrangements potentially across the whole of the north.

“If the government wants to move more quickly, they could trial it certainly in the north-west and potentially the whole of the north,” he said.

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