The study has found considerable support for the concept of MAAs amongst both local and national players. It concluded that working at the level of the functional economic area is necessary for certain types of intervention and that the stress on economic development is appropriate.
The study found that weaknesses in the process included lack of Treasury involvement early in the negotiations. There was also concern that a lot of the negotiation seemed to be the sum of a set of bi-lateral talks rather than there being a joined up approach from Whitehall. Where there were joint meetings, departmental representatives had only read the section of the proposals specific to them and were still not trying to get to grips either with the particular locality or with integrating different policy areas. It was also felt that departmental representatives were not necessarily senior enough to be able to speak for their department.
The study raised questions about whether the MAAs proposals were sufficiently ambitious and the preoccupation with freedoms and flexibilities at the expense of local players finding their own solutions. Too much focus was put on the agreement process and not enough on delivery. Departments and local players need more knowledge about what the other does and a better understanding of different policy tools. There should also be stronger private sector input to MAAs.
It has now been agreed that the Greater Manchester and Leeds City Regions will be the two pilot city regions for economic prosperity boards – ‘MAA plus’ agreements. These are designed to deliver stronger integration of planning, housing, transport, regeneration, employment and skills responsibilities, underpinned by new statutory arrangements for co-operation between local authorities.
The evaluation is available at: www.communities.http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/localgovernment/pdf/62468543.pdf