MSPs 'sceptical' over what can be achieved from City Region Deals

8 January 2018, 07:15


MSPs have highlighted concerns about the City Region Deals set up to boost parts of Scotland, saying "significant issues" need to be urgently addressed.

Holyrood's Local Government and Communities Committee examined the system which has seen four such deals approved in Scotland, in Glasgow and the Clyde, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness and talks on deals for the Stirling and Clackmannanshire area and the Tay cities region.

MSPs said there was some "scepticism about what is being promised", particularly regarding forecast job numbers.

The Deal Or No Deal report said: "What is clear from the evidence that we have heard during our inquiry is that there is much to welcome in relation to City Region Deals, not least of which is the much-needed investment in our economy.

"There are though, significant issues that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency."

The MSPs said: "There is a danger that the often confused and cluttered policy landscape at local government, Scottish and UK levels runs the risk of reducing the impact that can be achieved from the deals.

"At present, there are too many overlapping and competing initiatives and a mismatch between the objectives of local government and of the two governments."

The report said the committee was "not convinced" about the selection process for projects to be taken forward as part of the deals, calling for guidance "that provides for a clear, standardised, pan-Scotland system for evaluation".

MSPs called for "more sustained evidence that engagement with local businesses, the private sector more generally, charities, community groups and local people is meaningful and not just a means of informing people after decisions have been made."

MSPs said it was "not clear" how remote or rural areas would benefit, adding: "Whilst we understand that there are great gains to be made in our major urban conurbations, this cannot be at the expense of other towns in Scotland, some of which are larger in population terms than some of our cities, or of our more remote and rural areas."

City Deals were introduced in England in 2011 to encourage local economic growth and move power from central government to the regions.

Committee convener Bob Doris said: "We welcome the significant investment of £3.3 billion to create new jobs and build exciting and thriving areas around our major cities, some of which are in the most impoverished and deprived areas of Scotland.

"But it's clear from the evidence we have heard and our committee visits that there are significant issues with City Region Deals that must be addressed.

"That's why we strongly recommend that all governments, national and local, work together and agree to a single focus, as a key priority should be maximising the benefits for local communities."

He added: "In order for City Region Deals to be a success right across Scotland, we need clarity on when this initiative will be extended to all.

"As these deals are in the early years of a 10-20 year programme of investment, our committee will be keeping a close eye to check whether these improvements have been made and whether further action is required."

Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: "The Scottish Government has committed over £1 billion to City Region Deals and we will continue to support the agreed deals in Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

"We remain committed to securing city region deals for Stirling and Clackmannanshire and for the Tay Cities, as well as delivering regional deals for Ayrshire and for the Borderlands.

"City region deals are only one of our economic levers.

"We are focused on improving the economic prospects of every region in Scotland and will work to ensure that all areas benefit from Regional Economic Partnerships, which provide opportunities for local communities and businesses to engage in regional economic planning and development."

He thanked the committee for the report, pledging to consider the recommendations and said the deals "represent an important opportunity for inclusive economic growth and to forge new collaborations between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and local authorities and their regional partners".

A UK Government spokesman said: "We welcome the committee's scrutiny and agree that UK City Deals have brought, and will continue to bring, significant investment into Scotland, supporting local priorities and strengthening the country's economy by driving productivity, wages and growth."

He said the Government is committed to delivering the deals for Scotland's cities, to which it has contributed more than £1 billion of investment, and is also committed to a Borderlands Growth Deal and in talks for two further city deals in Scotland.

He added that the Government would continue to work with the Scottish Government and local partners as further proposals develop.