Book News: July 16th, 2009

This essay collection from the New Local Government Network marks the first anniversary of the signing of the first round of multi area agreements. The collection illustrates that collaboration between councils is continuing to go from strength-to strength but, as the policy frontiers are pushed, the debate about the future direction for the sub-regional agenda is heating up.

The authors present different perspectives with both the defence of Regional Development Agencies and a contrary view that local authorities should have the power to come together to establish new enterprise partnerships that truly reflect natural economic divisions, and to take over from their RDAs the responsibility for economic development within those areas.

There is also a view that the Multi-Area Agreement experience could be profound, representing an early step on the road to what might ultimately be a radically different approach to the way central-local government relationships have operated in the past.

The collection illustrates that there is no shortage of ideas about where the sub-regional agenda should go next. But collaboration across policy strands and administrative boundaries requires a change of mindset and new ways of working in both central and local government. Top-down design can have its place, but it also has its limits. It is challenging for the centre to have analysis from the ground-up and a diversity of bespoke arrangements emerging, but it must let go and allow managed risks to be taken in the process.

The collection is available from the NLGN.