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Big cities outside London would get extra funding and powers to take major development decisions

Date: (5 July 2012)    |    

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The government has planned to provide, some big cities in England outside London, noteworthy extra powers and money in return for promises to work towards reducing youth unemployment, promote economic growth and speed up revival.
There are six cities in line to benefit with the proposed scheme which would be announced by the Cities Minister Greg Clark.
The cities are Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield. Manchester and Liverpool have already agreed upon a deal.
The usual practice has the councils, which run England’s major cities, having to lobby with the central government to get any extra funding to invest in a major transport scheme or regeneration project which takes years to get cleared.
Under these new city deals, guaranteed funding is being provided for the city authorities to spend as they choose but of-course the councils have to sign up to a series of promises.
Leeds would be pledging to eliminate all NEETS (people not working, studying or training) from the city in return for the power to run transport policy in the region.
Sheffield will get extra money in return for a promise to create 4,000 apprenticeships.
Newcastle is getting funding in exchange for a plan to regenerate areas of the city.
The proposed extra funding is not being generated from new sources but the government is taking off funds from Whitehall departments such as transport, and letting the local authorities to decide how it uses the money rather than being decided by London.
The cities could borrow money against the future income that they might be able to generate from their projects.
The deals are city specific which are being negotiated with the ministers since last December. It was supposed to come into being along with a number of powerful new city mayors but a referendum on direct election of mayor was rejected in all cities except Bristol.
The government said that the city agreements were never conditional on having elected mayors. But, ministers have been pressing some cities to strengthen the way in which they are governed, before signing off on a deal.
In transport, the key question is whether a city is big enough to have its own transport policy.
To make their argument effective the likes of Leeds, Bradford, Barnsley and Harrogate were forming a new combined authority of West Yorkshire to have an articulate area over which transport decisions could be taken. This follows the creation of the Greater Manchester combined authority, which has now also secured a city deal.
These announcements, is meant to breathe fresh life into its localism agenda by the government but critics may say it is another example of ministers trying to devolve with one hand and dictate with another.