The OECD recognises city-regions as ‘agglomerations’ that can raise innovation rates, productivity and global connectivity. Countries now also recognise past underinvestment in infrastructure to support metropolitan growth. The Scottish Government - with its aim of raising sustainable, inclusive growth - and the UK government are currently addressing these issues through City (Region) ‘Deals’.
City Deals seek to improve the prioritisation of investment projects, promote the use of economic thinking in metropolitan strategies and, in England, provide a new basis for sub-national government. Some 35 Deals exist across England and Wales and Deals have been agreed for Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness.
These Deals fundamentally change both how local authorities undertake public capital investment and how economic policy is conducted in the UK. Greater autonomy for, and risk transfer to, councils demands better decisions. Each bespoke Deal includes powers agreed between city-regions and governments across areas such as infrastructure, skills and business support. In Scotland that requires cooperation across three levels of government. In England, there is now discussion of augmenting tax powers to areas in receipt of City Deals.
This programme will build on Scottish expertise to form a working network (drawn from Scotland, the UK and other OECD countries) of economists, geographers, political scientists and planners to share knowledge of City Region economies. It will set these deals in the context of similar developments in Europe, Canada and Australia and establish how they might be improved.
Discussions will take place over two meetings. The first meeting will concentrate on improving our understanding of City Region economies and review their key policy challenges. The second meeting will assess City Region Deals, identify factors crucial to their success and potential routes to improve them. Non-technical policy papers, blogs and practical guides will be developed to support ongoing engagement between workshops.