The creation of statutory Manchester and Liverpool city regions with greater power to direct their own economic strategies moved a step closer with the launch of a formal consultation period.
The North West Development Agency welcomed the consultation paper outlining how the Government plans to implement the proposals of last year's Sub-National Review of Economic Development and Regeneration.
The various legislative changes predicted by the report, jointly published by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for Communities and Local Government, include:
- Forums of local leaders to be established to approve regional strategies
- Government will intervene if local forums cannot reach a consensus
- New laws to create statutory sub-regions in the areas that want them
- The new bodies would have powers to enable decision-making to be devolved directly to the sub regional body, rather than a lead council(s)
- The new sub-regional bodies will not be directly elected and cannot control council tax
- The RDAs may be expected to delegate more of their funding to sub-regional bodies, subject to mutual agreements.
The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities has long argued the case for establishing a statutory city regional body to galvanise economic development around the North West's dominant city. The five Merseyside councils of the Liverpool city region have been less forthcoming with a position but have aligned inward investment and tourism strategies around the new sub-regional policy ready for a switch if desired.
Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the NWDA, said: "We very much welcome the proposals, they are a vote of confidence on the ability of the business-led RDAs to deliver sustainable economic growth and reflect the value we add, along with our partners, here in the North West.
"The proposals fit and build on the North West model and we will be working closely with businesses and our partners to implement them. We also welcome the opportunity to enhance our already close working relationships with local authorities, with the proposed focus on joint investment planning to ensure that local and regional priorities are aligned to achieve maximum impact.
"The proposals also reflect what businesses have been telling us about simplifying the business support offer and we will work hard on implementing the simplification agenda further as we go forward."
The Government also outlined further its plans to abolish Regional Assemblies and move their planning guidance powers to RDAs.
In future, the RDAs will set wider regional strategies covering the economic, social and environmental objectives for each region including housing, planning, transport, climate change and economic development.
The consultation document also proposes a second round of Regional Funding Allocations which will allow regions to advise Government on their investment priorities, and a stronger role for local government in promoting economic growth.
The consultation paper indicates that the House of Commons Modernisation Committee is looking at establishing regional Parliamentary committees to scrutinise economic development activity in each region.
The consultation on the implementation of the Sub-National Review will run until 20 June 2008.
A copy of the report can be downloaded in the Resource Library.