Magazine article Public Finance

Cities in Community Budget Push

Magazine article Public Finance

Cities in Community Budget Push

Article excerpt

A new 'Cabinet' made up of the leaders of eight of" the largest eities in England will urge the government to offer Community Budget deals across the country.

The Cabinet of Core Cities was formed on January 17 to create a single voice 0:1 issues of shared interest in the biggest cities outside London. It includes Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Bristol and Sheffield. Public Finance spoke to leaders of three of these cities.

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, has been appointed chair. He told PF it was 'absolutely' the aim to secure the extension of whole-place spending pilots. TTe added that the Cabinet's creation was intended to 'up the game' of the core cities after economic powers were devolved to the group in City Deals last July.

'There's a feeling we have to drive the agenda,' said Leese. Tt took a long, longtime for core cities to build an economic case [for extra powers], We have made that ease, and ? think there's a broad appreciation within government ofthat, so we really have to accelerate progress. It's a very clear message to government and the prime minister that we are willing to work with them as partners.'

Each of the leaders of the city authorities has been given a portfolio on which they will now represent the group in discussions with Whitehall. The posts include a dedicated public sector reform spokesman, which Leese said was intended to emphasise the councils' role in 'bringing together' services.

He highlighted the government's Community Budget pilot schemes as one area of reform where the cities would have a voice.

As pait of the Greater Manchester combined authority, Leese has been involved in one of the four pilot schemes that submitted proposals to the government in October. Each pilot worked with civil servants to develop spending plans to determine what savings or improvements could be made, based on a single local pot of public funds.

Leese said the plans could lead to 'service transformation" if approval were given to implement the changes.

'I think there are things we have done that are repli cable in other areas, and there's a job tobe done there. The process of the Community Budget pilots in getting central services to work together with local authorities is a veiy good way of doing things.'

Asked if the group wanted pooled budgets to be made more widely available, he added: 'Absolutely. In the Core Cities work programme, that's one of the areas where having that [Cabinet] can really take the broader agenda further. …

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