Given the number of parties involved there is a clear need for effective leadership and governance in order to implement these deals effectively. The shift in the decision making process is important and raises governance and legal issues.
There are clearly many barriers to putting in place the right infrastructure to facilitate inclusive growth such as development finance, capacity of the housebuilding industry to deliver residential units, and the speed and consistency of the planning process to name a few. Given the tremendous opportunity provided through City Region Deals, it should be ensured that inadequate governance of their infrastructure projects is not one of the factors.
For the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, although not finalised as yet, it would appear that a new model of regional governance will be introduced with a Joint Committee being established in terms of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973. It is likely that the Joint Committee will comprise the leaders of each Local Authority, a university/college sector representative, a business sector representative and a third sector representative. As the Joint Committee will be the ultimate decision making body in the governance structure, the question is to whom is it responsible to? Is it to the electorate, the Scottish Government, UK Government or UK Parliament (are perhaps a combination)? Flowing from the Joint Committee there will be an Executive Board, Programme Management Office and project delivery groups covering Innovation, Skills, Transport, Culture and Housing.
Leadership will be important with the need to put vested interests to one side to ensure that decisions are taken in the best interests of the region to fulfil its potential.
So why is governance important?
- It puts the framework in place to have effective joint working between local authorities, the university and college sector, business, third sector and the UK and Scottish Governments.
- It puts in place scrutiny and oversight arrangements to ensure that all parties are meeting their obligations, and that projects are delivered on time and on budget
- It will enable decisions on economic growth to be taken in an open and transparent way in one place for the whole of the City region.
- It allows for an integral role for the private and third sectors for their input on the determination of key regional funding priorities.
- Finally it will put in place robust decision-making and financial management processes and procedures to ensure that public money is being prioritised and spent responsibly.
Putting the right governance in place will facilitate the delivery of City Deal projects which in turn will lead to long term economic and social benefits for the wider region.