City deals and devolution of powers

The first tranche of City deals have been announced, and the organisational structures agreed with Central Government do indeed differ widely, as do the powers given. Greater Manchester already has a CCA bringing local authorities together, so it can make more strategic decisions. Leeds (Leeds City Region website) and Sheffield (Sheffield Combined Cities Authority website) will each develop their own Combined Authority and will form a West Yorkshire and a South Yorkshire CCA respectively. Newcastle is also working with the seven authorities across their economic area to form a North East Combined Authority. In contrast, Liverpool decided without a referendum to have a directly elected Mayor. Bristol was the only city in which the required referendum found in favour of a directly elected City Mayor and that on a very low electoral turnout. 'It is very, very expensive to run the referendum' one Core City Local Authority Director explained sadly. Yet others have developed leadership structures based on their LEPs. For example, Greater Birmingham and Solihull will have strong private sector leadership and decision-making across its LEP, and Nottingham has created a new private sector led governance structure to deliver its City deal. Partnerships
are the essence of City Regions and have been a major plank in the Core Cities programmes. So, City deals are being created around extensions of previous partnership agreements or based around developing LEPs.

The Core Cities group have been pressing for a number of additional powers to be delegated to cities, and many of their policy ideas, models and principles are also highly relevant to places other than cities (Murray, 2012). New financial instruments such as Tax Increment Financing (Core Cities, 2010), working across economic footprints, shared budgets, and the call for more locally focused skills and employment functions have a broader application (Murray, 2012). In practice, only Newcastle, Sheffield and Nottingham have so far been given permission for tax incremental funding, allowing them to borrow against future revenue to fund economic development. Manchester is also to be allowed to 'earn back' tax from the HM Treasury, and Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Sheffield are to be given self-sustaining investment funds to spend on local priority projects, reducing dependence on grants from Central Government. Nottingham is to be allowed to create a venture capital fund to invest in high tech start ups. Some will also have Business Growth hubs to provide business support and advice. However, at the same time, the Department for Communities and Local Government imposed a limit on council tax increases (their main local source of revenue) for all English Councils except Parish Councils (the very lowest level of governance) in 2012–2013 and offered an incentive grant equivalent to 2.5 per cent increase in council tax to those who complied (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2012). Whilst not compulsory, the vast majority did comply.

Some cities, but not others, have been given additional opportunities to have some responsibilities for co-ordinating local transport. Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and Sheffield are to obtain devolved transport budgets, and Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield have been given some responsibility for commissioning and managing franchise arrangements for local and regional rail services. There will also be some joint private/public investment programmes for housing development and regeneration. Some cities will also gain powers over the skills agenda. Sheffield will be able to control a skills budget for the city, and there will be apprenticeship hubs for Bristol, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle and Nottingham, as well as new arrangements on access to jobs, training, apprenticeships, volunteering or work experience in Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle.

In October 2012 Clegg and Clark invited 20 more cities to apply for this status. They were the Black Country, Bournemouth, Brighton and Hove, Greater Cambridge, Coventry and Warwickshire, Hull and Humber, Ipswich, Leicester and Leicestershire, Milton Keynes, Greater Norwich, Oxford, Reading, Plymouth, Preston and Lancashire, Southampton and Portsmouth, Southend, Stoke and Staffordshire, Sunderland and the North East, Swindon and Wiltshire and, finally, Tees Valley. These were supposed to be the next largest and fastest growing cities, though there is some grumbling among those not selected that in some cases these are neither the largest nor the fastest growing. The intention of the Coalition Government is once again to make separate deals with all of these by the end of
2013: 'Now it's time to free even more places from Whitehall control. I want these twenty cities and their wider areas to come up with ambitious and innovative proposals to help them make changes that will be felt by everyone across their region' (Cabinet Office, 2012). At the time of writing, each city is in the process of negotiating its own City deal. These are expected to be officially announced in 2014.

Enterprise zones and cities

The first 11 Enterprise Zones were announced in the budget of 2011 and were chosen 'with a focus on City Regions and those areas that have missed out in the last ten years' (LEP Toolbox, 2012). The intention was to establish 21 new Enterprise Zones in LEP areas. These would clearly not be only in City Regions. The advantages to businesses that set up within them include 'simplified planning and business rates discounts' (LEP Toolbox, 2012) which are expected to attract business start-ups. The Department for Communities and Local Government paper (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2012) acknowledged the danger of their simply attracting businesses from other local locations as had occurred during the 1980s but would not accept responsibility for monitoring or intervening in this. The LEPs themselves were to deal with this. Of course, Enterprise Zones are major planning initiatives and are new-build, so most will not come fully on stream for many years.

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