The decision by Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council to rethink their plan to withdraw from the proposed creation of a Combined Authority for the North East removes at a stroke the question mark over the future of single representation for the North East within the UK and abroad on what G9 call the “global inward investment stage”.
It should be remembered that having an umbrella operation to complement our local authorities is nothing new. The Northern Development Company was one such vehicle and a very successful one at that. It was replaced by a regional development agency – One NorthEast – which was wound up two years ago. Both were very much focused on attracting new industries to the region.
The proposed Combined Authority, presently badged LA7, is a temporary expedient while a brand for LA7 is developed. Drawing together local authorities, while new to the region, is nothing new to the UK with the most successful example being Greater Manchester where MIDAS, that is Invest in Manchester, acting on behalf of the ten local authorities of Greater Manchester, works to attract inward investment into the City Region by promoting Manchester as a leading European business location as well as a complementary proposition to the UK’s capital, London. There are two points to emphasise here. Greater Manchester is billed as a ‘City Region’ and the 10 local authorities continue their independent roles within this single City Region identity. A City Region is defined as a metropolitan area, a city, conurbation or urban zone with multiple administrative districts, sharing resources but not necessarily having a shared administration.
As such it functions as a single unit to all intents and purposes and is easily recognised across the globe.
The City Region is a fast developing concept with Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Liverpool’s plans for City Region status well advanced.
Any fragmentation of LA7 would be a major disappointment and frustrating at a time when competing locations are seeing the benefits of working together. Fragmentation within the region’s seven local authorities would impact on our efforts to attract inward investment and secure Government funding in the future. We need to focus on the opportunities outside the region and how we best present ourselves both as a brand and as a place to invest and working together as one is the only way forward. G9 applauds the conciliatory move by both councils. As one we can move forward with the best interests of the North East in mind.
:: Gavin Black, partner, Gavin Black & Partners and chairman, the G9 group of chartered surveyors which includes BNP Paribas Real Estate, DTZ, GVA, Jones Lang LaSalle, Knight Frank, Lambert Smith Hampton, Naylors Chartered Surveyors, Sanderson Weatherall, Storeys Edward Symmons and J K Property Consultants.