As devolution deals are agreed, business stands ready to work with government and local leaders to drive centres of private sector growth and ensure that the benefits of the recovery are spread across the country.
The test is now whether localities can move beyond planning and get behind the drive for growth – ensuring local people and businesses feel the benefits sooner rather than later.
To unlock the full potential of devolution, government should support councils with the capacity to move from planning to implementation.
Firstly, central government is right to play a quality assurance role by agreeing robust deals and clear performance measures for local areas.
Secondly businesses must be active partners in designing growth plans. Local leaders consulting businesses will be vital for councils to drive local innovation and investment and make firms aware of how new powers will be used. Take the Chancellor’s recent announcement on the devolution of business rates. If this spurs councils to take a pro-growth approach, then it has business’s backing. But this must not be a way to increase rates without the consent of the local business community.
In the coming years moving from deal negotiation to delivery will be the challenge for central and local government. There are real opportunities to seize here in skills, infrastructure and planning if we get this right.
Tailoring local skills provision is a big opportunity to get more people into better-paid jobs by matching training courses with specific needs of local employers.
Giving local and business leaders more say over infrastructure projects in their areas can better target local need.
And new strategic planning powers for cities and counties can help to free up public sector land to build more homes, and provide developers with the long-term stability to invest.
Sustained progress will require central and local government pulling economic levers in tandem, and maintaining close relationships with the businesses they’re trying to help.