Womble Bond Dickinson and Grant Thornton have launched the first benchmarking report for the performance of combined authorities. It is still early days for most combined authorities (CAs) and the political and administrative difficulties of adopting this model are not to be under-estimated. However, early signs are emerging of their potential to innovate and drive success.
There is currently no single template for measuring the future success of CAs and mayors. Each will need to be assessed against their own priorities and commitments. However using a rounded set of metrics will give a sense of balance and provide objective performance measurements to aid sustainable growth of places over time.
The report provides a detailed analysis of the legal, funding and governance frameworks of each of the CAs. It also uses Grant Thornton's Vibrant Economy Index which goes beyond financial returns and takes into account the wellbeing of society and everybody’s ability to thrive, as a base set of indicators to achieve balanced performance assessment of sustainable growth of places over time. It could identify a number of areas for improvement that will help to build a more compelling case for further devolution, including new local tax-raising powers.
Womble Bond Dickinson and Grant Thornton urge the Government to reopen conversations about meaningful fiscal devolution, as it offers real hope to people and businesses buying into their places and making sustainable local investments. In addition, unless devolution is accelerated, the ability for localities to put in place strategies for sustainable and inclusive growth will be severely tested. The report shows that CAs have the potential to play a transformative role in creating vibrant economies within city regions.
- CAs must begin to reduce the institutional blurring with historic local government structures that has occurred with their formation. As greater clarity over their roles, functions, and profiles of individual mayors, emerge, it will help their legitimacy going forwards.
- CAs stand and fall on their ability to add value through targeted investment, strategic co-ordination, joined up policy and the levering in of additional resources (particularly additional private sector funds).
- Innovative performance assessment is required to create opportunities to think more expansively about policy innovation.
- In order to progress devolution, it is imperative that regular benchmarking and reporting continues to occur.