Headlines: August 30th, 2006

ESSAYS WIDEN DEBATE ON FUTURE OF CITY-REGIONS POLICY

 

A series of essays launched by the think tank the New Local Government Network stresses the need for future city-regions to reflect grassroots realities rather than top down design. The contributions, from key figures in local government are underpinned by the view that that there is a difference between the Whitehall view of where the policy should go next and that found in local government.

The collection, “Views of the City: can city-regions find their place?” includes contributions from David Blunkett, Sir Robert Kerslake, the Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council and Ged Fitzgerald, Chief Executive at Sunderland City Council.

David Blunkett argues that city-regions have to be seen in the context of wider decentralisation and changes to the way local government is financed. He calls for the forthcoming White Paper on local government to answer “real questions rather than simply reiterating the blindingly obvious” and he urges greater freedoms for local authorities to raise local revenue. Sir Robert Kerslake, meanwhile, says cities are often best placed to plan strategically.

Ged Fitzgerald highlights the lack of any enduring regional and sub-regional urban strategy that fits the character of cities other than London. Finding ways to give a positive advantage to those parts of the country outside the capital, he says, is still a crucial challenge. The need for evolutionary rather than imposed governance reform is set out by Councillor John Merry, the Leader of Salford City Council. Many reforms, he writes, need to be rooted in the values, identity and character of a particular community.

Chris Leslie, the Director of the New Local Government Network believes the essays are an important addition to the debate in the run up to the local government White Paper. “Leadership of our large conurbations and city-regions is crucial, not only to improve the voice for their residents in relation to the dominant position held by the capital, but also to fight for inward investment and public facilities so desperately needed if prosperity and growth is to be generated in every corner of England,” he said.