City leaders have hailed the city deals announcement, pointing to the ability to consolidate investment streams and control funding for skills programmes as genuinely devolutionary steps.
More from: City power packages mark ‘historic moment’
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and cities minister Greg Clark announced the signing of deals with Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Bristol and the West of England, Greater Manchester, Leeds City Region, Liverpool City Region, Nottingham, Newcastle and Sheffield City Region on 5 July. They claimed they would create 175,000 jobs over the next 20 years, along with 37,000 new apprenticeships.
Speaking to LGC after the announcement, Chris Murray, director of the Core Cities Group, which has been instrumental in securing the deals, said the total package of new powers that had been devolved to the city level marked “an almost historic moment”.
He hailed the ability to create single investment funds from a range of different funding streams as one of the most significant measures included in some of the deals.
“The things that are really significant are the consolidated investment models. They allow you a lot more leverage to get more bang for your money,” he said.
He added that the opportunity to add in EU funds to these models would likely add to their importance.
Mr Murray also pointed to the devolution of control over funding for skills services as an important step.
“It’s something we’ve needed to change for a long time and it comes from an area of Whitehall where the thinking is much less spatially focused and inclined, so that’s a big step,” he said.
As reported by LGC in April, one of the deals will see Leeds City Region follow in Greater Manchester’s footsteps and establish a combined authority. This will be done in return for a 10-year funding allocation for transport in the city that will see money paid up front.
The eight authorities of the Sheffield City Region are also looking to form a combined authority and have stolen a march on Leeds, having already begun the formal process of conducting a statutory governance review ahead of its creation.
Sheffield City Council chief executive John Mothersole agreed that the passing of £23.8m of funding to the city region for skills was “truly devolutionary and game changing”.
Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy’s annual conference in Liverpool last week, Sir Bob Kerslake, head of the home civil service, said the government had tried to pursue a “city region approach” in the deals it had agreed.
He also confirmed there would be “further opportunities to go beyond the core cities into other areas”.
“If we have another round I think we will be putting the priority on models that work to economic footprints, which usually include rural areas as well as urban areas,” he said.
“I think there is an interest in having what might be called city-type deals in areas that aren’t particularly urban, so in some of the rural parts of the country, to see if we can make the same model work.”