London boroughs should be permitted to enter into combined authority arrangements, the Society of London Treasurers has argued in a report ‘Capitalising on the Boroughs’. The report argues that new forms of governance will be required in London to implement the type of greater fiscal devolution that is being widely proposed following the Scottish referendum.
Report author Chris Naylor, chief operating officer and director of finance at the London Borough of Barnet, says: “It’s almost as if the policy zeitgeist is that we have sorted governance out in London and if you are in Manchester, what you want is what London has got. That is understandable, in a way. But that assumes that the combined authority in London is the GLA.
“The point we are making is that if you look at growth opportunities and the governance of those opportunities, someone is borrowing some money, investing that money and managing the returns. There are only two levels of authority in London at present that can do that, which are the GLA or an individual London borough.
“This implies that the opportunities are only at the whole of London level, or they exist within the boundaries of an individual London borough. Our report is saying that there are some instances where that opportunity will exist on a cross-borough basis.”
An example, said Mr Naylor, would have been if the Brent Shopping Centre had been located on a cross-borough site, involving different boroughs to act together on site development, transport and regeneration. He added that the speed at which discussions are taking place on fiscal devolution makes it urgent to resolve the issue of combined authority arrangements in London.
The Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 allows the communities secretary to approve combined authorities where councils believe they will facilitate joint working on such matters as transport, regeneration and economic development. Proposals for combined authorities have been put forward in the North East, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and the East Midlands.