Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Core Cities

This is work in progree; I haven't finished writing it yet!!!!

Report on the Core Cities Summit 7th and 8th November 2007.

Who are the ‘Core Cities Group’?
Established circa 10 years ago, the Core Cities Group is a network of England's major regional cities: Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. They form the economic and urban cores of wider surrounding territories, the city regions. In 2006 Adrian Vinson asked if Southampton could join and was politely rebuffed; currently all the members are significantly larger than Southampton. Given the make up of the core city members, the group has been seen in some quarters as something of a left-wing pressure group, however as the Conservatives had made gains in local government, the cross-party status of the organisation has increasingly been emphasised by its members.

Key themes of the summit

The keynote address was given by

The Rt Hon Hazel Blears MP, Secretary of State for Communities & Local government.
Most of her speech centered upon the snappily titled ‘Review of Sub-national economic development and regeneration’ and concentrated on devolving powers to local authorities and regions to ‘respond to local challenges and improve economic outcomes. She made the point that responsibilities should be allocated in line with economic outcomes (i.e. growth & regeneration) based on a bottom up approach and that neighbourhood renewal funding should be more closely focused on the most deprieved areas with incentives (presumably financhial but she did not elaborate) for improved performance. The concept of ‘Partnership Working’ with organisations like PUSH was considered by her department key and she indicated that while her department had no plans for local government reorganisation, they would be forthcoming if partnership working was not taking place at every level. Formal multi-area agreements were to be encouraged to allow groups of councils to work together. As well as expecting authorities to work together at a sub-regional level, she also sees an extended role for Regional Development Agencies with their key role again being to facilitate economic growth. She stressed that greater authority and devolution for councils would be a message that her department would fight for across Whitehall and described the local government settlement as ‘tight but fair’(!) I thought the speech was pretty flat in terms of delivery but as the key messages generally supportive of councils it went down fairly well in the hall.
One of her team
John Healey MP, Minister of State for Communities & local Government then spoke. He reinforced her points and gave an excellent speech that reflected the fact he had led the review from the Treasury when a minister there and it seems has now been bought into the DCLG by Gordon Brown to implement it. Personally on the basis of his performance, I would make him the Secretary of State and sack Blears! He was positively outspoken on the need to devolve power. He also devoted a significant part of his speech to local government funding and said that;
He expected to see

  • Increased revenue from charges and
  • Expanded trading activities by local government
  • Increased borrowing by councils against capital assets, especially to fund major infrastructure projects.
  • Use of supplementary business rates to raise funds


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