Headlines: November 8th, 2007

Local authorities in 13 sub-regions of England are working on plans to increase jobs, improve transport and push up investment and housing through greater co-operation. The regions, named by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears at the Core Cities Summit in Nottingham, could be given new powers to collaborate in promoting prosperity and development.

Each of the 13 areas is producing its own plans to tackle what it sees as the key local issues without having to follow a centrally imposed approach. That means that in South Yorkshire the emphasis is on improving housing but authorities in Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole aim to boost skills and capitalise on the region hosting Olympic sailing competitions.

Ms Blears told the meeting that while Britain’s city centres had seen major changes in the last decade there were still deep rooted pockets of deprivation in and around them. The new plans are designed to enable local authorities to overcome traditional administrative and structural boundaries to deliver solutions through Multi Area Agreements.

She said the Government was working with each of the 13 interested areas to develop MAAs and the sub-regions were all aiming to have agreed these locally and with the Government by June of next year. Guidance on MAAs is to be published soon alongside a consultation on a new duty for councils to tackle worklessness. The Government is also looking into extending powers for co-operation by councils in areas such as regeneration, jobs, skills, housing and environmental protection.

Ms Blears said,” By strengthening city-regions and giving all local councils a new duty to promote jobs and tackle worklessness we are giving local leaders real tools to spread prosperity and improve quality of life for all.” She added that there would not be a Government imposed approach to MAAs and councils would have to come forward with their own proposals that recognised their distinctive histories and needs.