Working together

THE Government will step up its "people power" agenda shortly with publication of its Localism Bill. The core principle is sound; stripping Whitehall of powers and allowing local communities to take key decisions. The greater challenge will be the implementation of this approach, and specifically in those areas where their leadership falls short of the standards expected by taxpayers.

Even though the concept of an elected mayor has seen Doncaster descend into scandal, the Government intends to extend this approach to other cities. It is also abolishing regional development agencies, bodies like Yorkshire Forward that can act strategically, and replacing them with a network of council-led local enterprise partnerships.

As well as saving money, Ministers argue that this approach will lead to greater accountability. That may be so. But the argument is nebulous in those areas that come under the auspices of the Humber Economic Partnership, a body that was charged with attracting investment to one of the UK's most deprived areas.

Yet, despite this objective, it appears that council leaders on opposite banks of the Humber have not enjoyed the most productive of relationships and that input from business professionals – the region's captains of industry – has been marginalised. The result is acrimony and another blow to the prospects of an area that will see significant public sector job losses in the coming months.

Of course, it is difficult for Ministers to legislate against such infighting. But, equally, they need to ensure that their devolved power structures encourage co-operation between neighbouring authorities and other bodies. For, unless longstanding geographical and political differences are put to one side, areas like Hull and the neighbouring East Riding will continue to lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to attracting new jobs.