Deals that will set twenty cities free from the Whitehall leash have been announced by the Deputy Prime Minister in a speech at Mansion House in London. The speech is the first of an annual speech slot that has now been reserved for deputy prime ministers.
Last summer, eight of England’s largest cities confirmed deals with the Government to boost local growth. Now twenty more cities including the Black Country will get the green light to go ahead and negotiate plans to get the freedom, powers and tools needed to shape their economic future.
The deals will be reached between Government and cities so that local areas can bid for new powers that will enable them to grow. In return for cities’ strong plans for growth the government will devolve financial and planning powers to let cities take charge of their own destinies – from autonomy over how to spend their training and skills budgets, to creating local investment funds to build roads and unlock developments.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said, "Even more places will be free from Whitehall control and have the tools to power their own growth. These deals help cities and their wider areas make once in a generation changes that will be felt by everyone across their region.
"Letting go of power and money doesn’t come naturally to Whitehall. Over time, the economic importance of other parts of the country has been devastatingly downplayed, as the economic elite have narrowed the debate towards a London-centric view.
"Rather than let our industries and communities wither, we need to free up cities outside of London that have their own unique selling points.”
Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Minister for Cities, Greg Clark, said, "Britain’s economic success depends on our cities being successful – they are where most people live, work and study, and where most businesses are located. Each city is unique, yet for decades Whitehall has treated them as being the same – there has been too little sense of place in government policy.
"City deals are a quiet revolution in the way Britain is governed. Rather than London laying down the law, cities have the right to do things their way. The stories of their own futures will be as individual as their unique histories.
"Having begun with eight cities there has been enormous demand by other cities to be part of the action. Today’s invitation gives twenty more cities the chance to be part of this revolution”
In October 2012, as part of the deal process, twenty cities were invited to submit bids to get a City Deal. Each area worked with local partners and their Local Enterprise Partnership to put forward proposals. Following careful assessment of the bids – which are judged on whether they are ambitious, robust and can attract private sector investment – the government has decided to enter negotiations with every city on a staggered timeline.
Councillor Roger Lawrence, leader of Wolverhampton City Council and Chairman of Black Country Consortium, said, "I’m delighted with today’s announcement. Our city deal is both ambitious and achievable. It meets the specific needs of the Black Country, focusing on skills, preparing sites for investment and business and better connectivity. The Black Country has a strong track record of working together and we are confident that this City Deal will be a significant step forward in realising our ambitions and the potential of the region”.
Stewart Towe, chair of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, added, "Through the Local Enterprise Partnership, we already have a strong private and public sector partnership and a strategy for growth. The new City Deal is a major step in empowering the Black Country to make decisions to maximise its economic growth and most importantly support our businesses”.
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