Two neighbouring local enterprise partnerships have pledged to work together in a bid to boost economic growth but the agreement is not a precursor to a merger, according to one of its members.
Seven local authorities and the Cheshire and Warrington and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEPs (see box below) have signed a concordat to work together so they can capitalise on the investment potential arising from the expectation that HS2 will come to the region.
Dubbed the ‘Northern Gateway Partnership’, the aim is to unlock major new growth and investment opportunities which could deliver more than 100,000 new homes and 120,000 new jobs by 2040, a statement said.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s deputy leader Abi Brown (Con) told LGC the agreement was “not at all” a move towards a merger between the LEPs.
While the partnership arrangement is likely to see the region look at housing, jobs, and infrastructure, Cllr Brown said it was “not intended to be a part of the devolution debate” either as talks between partners pre-dated the rush to form combined authorities and submit devolution bids over the summer.
Cllr Brown said: “From a partnership working point of view you can’t get away from it as that’s the basis of devolution but we don’t see this as a part of that at the moment.”
While Cheshire and Warrington submitted a devolution bid, Staffordshire did not although there have been recent rumblings of a potential county-wide bid for powers.
Cllr Brown said there was “general support” for that but added the Northern Gateway Partnership agreement was the “big focus” at present.
She said there was still “a lot of detail” to be worked up as to how the partnership will work in practice but said it was likely to include submitting joint bids for funding from central government.
In a statement Christine Gaskell, chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said: “The Northern Gateway Partnership will put the north and the Midlands in a strong position to deliver nationally significant economic growth, capitalising on the opportunities and investment that will be generated by HS2.
“Committing to work across boundaries and regions will enable us to work together in a joined up and strategic way, with the backing of government, to maximise our role in delivering the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ and ‘Midlands Engine’.”
The Northern Gateway Partnership local authority members:
Cheshire East Council
Cheshire West and Chester Council
Staffordshire Moorlands DC
Stoke-on-Trent City Council
Cheshire and Warrington LEP
Stoke and Staffordshire LEP