Dear Editor, The future of regional and local governance has caught the eye since the General Election.
“Regions, what regions?” you may ask and indeed much of the regional architecture has been scrapped, although some of this demolition could end up in the High Court.
We are due primary legislation later in the year which could well see the regional tier disappear under the knife of Eric Pickles.
Until then we are in a period of voids and vacuums with no solid basis on which to take forward land use planning decisions.
Indeed, according to research published by Tetlow King Planning on behalf of the National Housing Federation in July, plans for 85,000 homes in England have been dropped since their abolition.
But it is the demise of the Regional Development Agencies which seems to have journalists, business leaders and politicians jumping. The replacement Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s) have seen deals being scrambled together behind closed doors and each week there is a contradiction to last week’s brave new plan. Jerry Blackett, from the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce seems to be most agile on this subject, while various local authorities are courting and being rejected by each other.
However two aspects seem to have been missing from all of the debates thus far: governance and the role of the voluntary and community sector.
We all have opinions of the accountability and effectiveness of the West Midlands Regional Assembly – however, what can be said is that it was open, transparent and accountable.
So much so that Mr Pickles wants rid and to replace it with business-led, and dominated, partnerships. They will have access to a centrally controlled Regional Growth Fund and, with access to land banks, could push forward Accelerated Growth Zones.
So as we move forwards to the September 6 deadline for the LEP submissions can we have some indication of just where the voluntary and community sector will sit in relation to them and how accountable will they be to local people?
The voluntary and community sector has, is and will be a valuable contributor to the quality of life within our region. To ignore them from the LEPs could be missing out on valuable intelligence and expertise from the rich diversity that exists across the West Midlands.
chairman, West Midlands
Regional Sustainability Forum