The recent Core Cities summit launched policy proposals designed to boost growth, investment and jobs, also to reform the public sector.
The Core Cities are also stepping up their advocacy for devolution, with the new RSA City Growth Commission considering the same topic. The Centre for Cities ‘Think Cities’ programme is also designed to influence political thinking around devolution to cities.
The recently launched What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth has been tasked to consider what works as a bottom line.
The work of the decade old ‘growth coalitions’ and ‘smart local government’ project continues to have a role in this. Growth coalitions sought to drive growth in all local economies on the basis that what’s good for local people - good housing and education, a good environment etc. - is good for local business.
It was focused on the need for an overarching local economic or growth-driven strategic vision and funding arrangement, making local services work better for local people and the national economy by utilising the ‘tools of government’. This effectively would lead improved public services through rationalisation, coordination and integration.
Mark Prisk, the recent ex-Minister at DCLG who was responsible for drawing up the new Growth Deals responded to my engagement with him and advocacy for all local authority areas. He called for local public sector budgets and provision to be taken into account when LEPs look to collaboratively draw up local Growth Deals with authorities.
Local authorities leading economic growth
Local authorities are at the centre of this equation and are charged more than any other body with ensuring that they support the well-being of their residents.
This is the opportunity to re-establish their leadership credentials through local fora like the health and wellbeing board (and, dare I mention, the Local Strategic Partnerships or suchlike, where they remain, can be reinvigorated or re-born).
Local authorities can foster local public services provision funded through the conduit of an economic growth-focused local partnership that is fit for purpose in terms of meeting the needs of local people and the national economy (promoting economic growth, health and well-being etc., and fiscal discipline).
Local public service providers can then, in turn, collectively engage with the LEPs to ensure that the Growth Deals and the local public service expenditure are working in a coordinated, value-adding way.
Funding driving local growth, service integration and improvement
The corollary of this argument is that only this locally determined growth focused local service provision will be funded by government, ensuring that there is a coordinated, aligned or pooled approach as necessary.
Local public service provision and its expenditure will be lead by the ‘driver’ – local requirements for growth and local people’s issues and experiences of local services in addressing these issues.
Adam Fineberg is an advisor on local public services and economic development. Further information is available at www.growthcoalitions.org.uk