Councils should press home plans for greater local control with Whitehall

Published on Thursday, 08 March 2012 10:52
Posted by Matthew Abbott

Cities and towns across the UK are being urged by leading councillors to go to the Government with a list of powers being sought in order to boost local growth and jobs.

Speaking at a joint LGA and Association of North East Councils conference in the North East tomorrow, Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the Local Government Association's Economy and Transport Board, will say:

"Councils have already successfully secured local deals with government to localise a range of issues, including housing, welfare and skills.

"There are ambitious councils and businesses in the North East who have been instrumental in leading regeneration schemes and I hope they look to negotiate more powers with Whitehall too.

"In the meantime, the LGA will continue to press the Government for greater decentralisation of power right across the board for all areas, and not just towns and cities.

"While having more local powers isn't a silver bullet, they can allow local places to focus with laser-like precision on local concerns. Councils are already delivering growth on the ground level, but new powers can take them to the next level."

In his opening address at the event, Cllr Paul Watson, Chair of the Association of North East Councils, will say:

"Rebalancing the economy and supporting business growth is a key priority for central and local government. There has never been a more important time for councils to clearly demonstrate the unique contribution they make to their economies and to highlight strong examples of how such investment is delivering major economic and employment benefits for citizens and communities.

"Councils across the North East of England are committed to working with the private sector and with Government to ensure that we maximise our economic growth potential for this area and for the country as a whole".

The remarks come as the LGA continues to hold a series of regional events designed to boost local economic growth and jobs across the country. The LGA has produced an interim report in the meantime, which said:

  • Councils are already driving economic development – and have been for over a century. They already have ambitious plans to use Tax Increment Financing, municipal bonds and other financial mechanisms to further local growth.
  • Young people may not have the necessary skills required for the world of work. To tackle this, local places need to develop the relevant skills of the local workforce, so that they are able to fill the available jobs.
  • National transport objectives often focus on the system itself, rather than it being a lever of growth. Coherent local plans for buses, railways and roads can realign transport and growth objectives.
  • Universities and other learning centres are known to be good at supporting commercial growth. However, there is more that they can do to ensure the work they do offers tangible benefits to their local economy.

In addition to these interim findings, the LGA has been pushing for a package of further changes to stimulate growth and jobs. This includes: cutting unnecessary red tape; allowing councils to takeover empty shops; and changes to planning rules to allow councils to shape high streets in the interests of local people.

Councils are also keen to work closer with businesses to ensure that economic growth remains a priority, for example through Business Improvement Districts.

Source: Local Government Association

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