Leading cities launch public investigation into cash generation

By on 02/02/2011 in News

Leading cities launch public investigation into ways town halls can generate more cash
Birmingham is one of three cities poised to launch a public investigation into the case for councils to raise more of their own income.
Birmingham, Manchester and Westminster councils have together enlisted leading experts to sit on the review which will chaired by Sir Stuart Lipton, one of Britain's most respected property developers.
They include Nick Raynsford MP, former local government minister, Professor Tony Travers, Director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics and Roger Bright, Chief Executive of the Crown Estate.
Their final report will form part of the coalition's review of local government finance which is due in the summer.

Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “As the largest UK city economy outside of the capital Birmingham has a vital role to play in supporting the UK growth agenda. Locally we are already working closely with business, developing new financial tools and levering in investment from some of the major international growth hubs. I look forward to Birmingham working with the commission - and look forward to their findings.”
The new city commission set up by Westminster, Birmingham and Manchester councils will examine how local authorities can become less reliant on central government handouts and whether this could help Britain's economic growth.
Sir Stuart, chair of the commission, said: “The current system for funding our major cities is unsustainable and our goal is to investigate how it can become more self-sufficient.
“If the UK's cities are to play a stronger role in promoting economic growth they must be in a position to be genuine local leaders and receive the financial benefits from the investment they make in supporting the local economy. 
“Without a clear link between local growth and local spend, local government's ability to drive the growth of the country's greatest cities will be limited.
“Local authorities are keen to work in new ways to support economic growth but it is fundamental that they have the right tools, freedoms and flexibilities to achieve this. 
“We are very ambitious about the impact of this inquiry, believing that it will be a fundamental source for the review into local government finance being undertaken by central government.”
The three authorities – which are jointly set to make almost £500million worth of savings over the next four years – argue the current system for funding Britain's major cities and their public services is unsustainable and needs radical reform.
Cllr Colin Barrow, leader of Westminster Council, said: “We have a goal and vision of becoming self-sufficient. The council no longer wants to go cap in hand to ministers for hand-outs to pay for the services it delivers for the community.
“The current system does not recognise the contribution that local government plays in supporting growth or allows local authorities to share the benefits of growth. The commissioners are some of the very best and brightest thinkers in their field and we look forward to their findings.”
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Effective and efficient local government has been critical to Manchester’s success over the past 20 years. We want to build on Manchester’s economic success and continue to make sure the regional economy grows.
“To do that, and ensure that the Manchester City Region continues to complement and in some ways act as a counterbalance to the capital, central government needs to get local authority funding right.
“For growth to happen, we need to have a healthy labour market and the tools to tackle deprivation, unemployment, skills gaps and inequality. Local authorities are the key to achieving this, which makes the reform of local government finance all the more critical.”
The commission's first meeting is due to take place tomorrow (February 4th) at Westminster City Hall in Victoria. Further meetings will take place in Manchester on February 25th and on March 9th in Birmingham.
The other members of the commission are Francis Salway, Chief Executive of Land Securities, Anthony Browne, Mayoral Policy Director for Economic and Business Development at the Mayor of London's Office, Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive at the Centre for Cities, Michael Hayman, founder of communication consultancy Seven Hills and chairman of entrepreneurs at Coutts & Co and Steve Freer, CIPFA's chief executive and Mike Emmerich, Chief Executive of Commission for the New Economy.

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