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Governance and Leadership required for Scotland’s City Deals to progress

City Deals have been designed to promote economic growth, to the benefit of entire regions around the country. They are agreements between the UK Government, Scottish Government and cities. These bespoke packages of funding de-centralise power and allow for a major shift in decision-making, distributing powers to local leaders and businesses to drive growth.

On 20 July 2017 the Secretary of State for Scotland announced that an agreement had been reached between the UK and Scottish Governments on the terms of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Deal. The deal will include six local authority areas, based on a joint UK and Scottish Government investment of £600 million and a £500 million investment from regional partners over a period of 15 years. This deal aims to create 21,000 jobs in the area.

With many parties involved, there is a clear need for effective leadership and governance in order to implement these deals effectively. This shift in decision-making powers comes with it its own governance and legal issues.

Local authorities are recognising that a strong and streamlined governance structure is needed to maximise local growth, with some establishing a cabinet system. The Glasgow and Clyde Valley cabinet acts as the ultimate decision-making body in the governance structure. The members of these cabinets are the Leaders of the participating local authorities and operate on a one member, one vote basis.  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.

South of the border, regions such as Greater Manchester have adopted a very different governance model in the form of a directly elected city region Mayor who would provide overall leadership, with new powers on transport, housing and planning. The Mayor has the power to create a statutory spatial framework for the city region, requiring approval by a unanimous vote from the Mayor's Cabinet. The Mayor also holds ultimate responsibility for a devolved and consolidated transport budget.

This governance structure requires a scrutiny function, examining the effectiveness of the Mayor's policies and decisions. This robust scrutiny function is essential to the success of City Deals, holding decision-makers to account and ensuring Government and regional partner investment is spent effectively.

Regions such as Cornwall have recognised the importance of a streamlined governance structure, undertaking a local governance re-organisation to de-layer its governance arrangement. This de-layering of a region's governance structure should clarify which body holds ultimate responsibility for decision-making, fiscal responsibility and who should be held accountable.  It will be interesting to see if the governance model in Scotland develops in the same way going forward.

In Scotland, effective governance and leadership of City Deals will lead to, firstly, improved joint working between local authorities, the UK Government and the Scottish Government. Secondly, it will see robust frameworks put in place to ensure that all parties are meeting their obligations; and finally, effective oversight of the delivery of projects on time and on budget to facilitate sustainable economic growth.

This will support the Scottish Government's ambition for visible and accountable leadership, with residents able to identify who is taking local decisions in line with the overall inclusion agenda.