Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities
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"more than the sum of their parts" - partnerships seal deal to increase economic growth

"more than the sum of their parts" - partnerships seal deal to increase economic growth

COMMUNITIES AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT News Release (171) issued by The Government News Network on 14 July 2008

Today, seven groups of councils and local partners are to seal their commitment to boost economic prosperity, in recognition that they can each achieve more than the sum of their parts - in the first set of Multi-Area Agreements (MAAs) signed today.

In a contract with Government, councils working together with local agencies - from Greater Manchester to the South Coast - will get more freedoms from Whitehall in return for pledging a local, partnership approach to boost economic growth and tackle deprivation and financial inequalities. Freedoms include more flexible resources on housing, pilot transport schemes, integrated and flexible employment and skills investment and choice to refocus national targets to increase support to businesses.

The ambition is to drive growth in local economies and to close the gap with the top performing areas in the country through partnerships that cross local authority boundaries - authorities, government agencies such as Jobcentre Plus and the Learning and Skills Council and the private and third sectors. Ultimately this should help boost regional prosperity and help people to reach their potential - connecting them to jobs, skills, and affordable homes, regardless of where they live or work.

These groups of councils and local partners across the country, or sub-regions, have stepped forward to develop their own bespoke MAAs whether to boost capital, create more homes, or enable employers to decide how to plug local skills gaps to reflect local job market needs.

A purely voluntary initiative, these agreements are the result of a new-style conversation between central and local government, and signal the drive within sub-regions to take collective responsibility to improve prosperity, tackle pockets of deprivation, and create places where people want to live, work and play. The Government has said that it is committed to work with areas if they want to change their focus or widen their agreement's scope and it has pledged to consider whether there is a case for legislation to allow those who want to formalise these arrangements.

Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears said:

"Some of the issues that make the biggest difference to local people don't respect local boundaries. Whether it's boosting the economy by skilling people and helping them onto their career path, making transport work, or building the right homes in the right places. If they want to make a big difference, councils need to come together.

"Everyone knows that together we can achieve more than the sum of our parts. Today's agreements - which are the first of their kind - stand testament to that.

"Coordinating efforts can achieve better outcomes for local people and businesses. Local areas will work shoulder-to-shoulder to boost economic growth, tackle entrenched pockets of deprivation and unlock their residents' potential across the area - helping places to catch up economically.

"A better economy means a better quality of life for local people by connecting people to training, work and homes and through better transport. This means more choice and less compromise so people can do this in a way that mirrors they way they live their life - instead of mirroring their local authority boundary".

The first seven MAAs - with tailored approaches and stretching targets for their area - are the start of a long-term relationship between Government and sub-regions which will see other agreements signed over the next year. They come a year since the publication of the Sub-National Review.

Local Government Association Vice Chairman, Sir Jeremy Beecham said:

"MAAs have the potential to be a stepping stone to genuine devolution of powers and funding. They will allow councils, local partners and government agencies to work together to challenge the artificial limits of boundaries.

"The diversity of the issues tackled in the first MAAs reflect the critical importance of local priorities. Some of the issues identified, such as the need to tackle worklessness across a geographic area that more realistically reflects the local labour market will bring real improvements for local people.

"The wide geographical spread of the first seven areas, and the fact that all types of councils are represented shows that MAAs can be flexible enough to appeal to all areas.

"The challenge now is to turn the commitments in these first MAAs into action and to work with other areas interested in developing their own agreements. Other areas will be encouraged by the potential benefits for local people that these first agreements set out to achieve."

Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell said:

"We know that work is the best route out of poverty which is why we are proposing radical changes to the welfare system to help everyone who is able to work get back to work. Multi-Area Agreements provide an important opportunity to devolve power to communities. We want to empower those working at the local level to take the lead in providing employment and skills services that are tailored to local needs. This will ensure disadvantaged people in some of our most deprived areas are able to take advantage of the opportunities available to find and progress in work."

Notes to editors

1. A signing ceremony will be held in London this afternoon (14 July) for each of these sub regions - which Communities Secretary Hazel Blears and Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, Local Government Minister, John Healey, and other Government Ministers will attend.

2. The seven Multi Area Agreements to be signed today are:-

* Tees Valley - Darlington, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees. The MAA covers physical regeneration, transport and housing renewal and growth. Targets include reducing the gap in GVA between Tees Valley and the rest of the region and improving the quality of the housing stock and growing local housing markets.

* Greater Manchester - Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan. The focus is on maximising the benefits of greater integration between employment support and skills provision. Priority targets: employment, skills and raising wage income.

* South Yorkshire - Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley - Their initial MAA is focused on growing local housing markets and housing renewal. Targets are included on both, building on the work undertaken to date as part of the Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder.

* Leeds City Region - Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield, York, (Unitaries) North Yorkshire (County), Selby, Craven and Harrogate (Districts). Leeds City Region is prioritising Transport and Skills with a focus on how best local people can be connected to learning and employment opportunities. Targets include increasing employment and increasing GVA

* Partnership for Urban South Hampshire - Hampshire (County) Portsmouth, Southampton (Unitary) East Hampshire, Eastleigh, Fareham, Gosport, Havant, New Forest, Test Valley, Winchester (Districts). Focus is on employment and skills, housing, transport and skills. The transport priorities will deliver a seamless management system for the area's roads which will lead to better planning and delivery of transport priorities across the area.

* Bournemouth, Dorset and Poole Bournemouth and Poole (Unitaries), Dorset (County) and the Christchurch Council, East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland (Districts) - The three main priorities are skills, transport and sustainable growth. Targets include increasing the GVA per employee and increasing the proportion of the population with university level skills.

* Tyne and Wear - Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, North Tyneside Council, South Tyneside Council, Sunderland City Council, Durham County Council, Northumberland County Council. Key themes are employment, skills - levels 1 to 4 and transport. Targets include reducing the number of people on out of work benefits and congestion time per mile. The agreement heralds a new approach to the delivery of key priorities in the sub-region, in particular tackling the most acute pockets of deprivation in the area.

3. The Sub National Review (SNR) set out the Government's commitment to reduce economic inequalities between and within regions by tackling the most pressing economic challenges where they occur - nationally, regionally or locally and committed Government to work with local authorities to develop the first MAAs.

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