Headlines: March 3rd, 2005

A commission has been set up to investigate whether new City Regions could form the basis of the future shape of local government. The independent think tank, the New Local Government Network has launched the commission to explore the best way forward for strategic government in England. It will look at new structures following the ‘No’ vote in the referendum over a Regional Assembly for the North East and the Network’s research into making multi-level governance work.The NLGN City Regions Commission brings together experts from inside and outside local government. They will oversee seminars, run evidence sessions and conduct their own research. Their findings will be published in the summer.

Confirmed members of the new body include Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, the chair of the Local Government Association, a number of local authority chief executives, the leaders of Gateshead, Manchester and Liverpool councils, academics, Graham Stringer, the Labour MP for Manchester, Blackley, John Biggs, a London Assembly member and vice chair of the London Development Agency, Juliet Williams, who chairs the South West Regional development Agency and Yvette Livesey, Visionary Director of ‘In the City’.

The Commission will be headed by Roger Blitz, the UK Affairs Editor of ‘The Financial Times’ with in-house work being carried out by the NLGN Research Unit. John Temple, the former deputy leader of South Tyneside Council will act as an advisor to the Commission.

Areas to be looked into include what a City Region is and what it would mean in the UK context, what such regions could deliver that does not happen already, how they might work, the lessons to be learned from the experience so far in Greater London and what would happen to areas outside the City Regions.

A number of people have already been lined up to give evidence on the issues. They include Ed Balls, former chief economic adviser to the Chancellor, and Professor Alan Harding of the University of Salford who was adviser to the Select Committee that prepared the Regional Assemblies Bill. Professor Gerry Stoker of the University of Manchester will also give evidence on the back of his forthcoming pamphlet for the New Local Government Network in which he will call for the ‘super-sizing’ of cities, as part of a radical overhaul of English local government.

Warren Hatter, Head of NLGN’s Research Unit said the Commission offered the opportunity to get behind the rhetoric of City Regions and to see whether they were a realistic option and, if so, in what form they could be made to work.