The rise of the combined authority has been one of the most remarkable aspects of the coalition
government’s urban policy. Since the abolition of the metropolitan counties in 1986, England’s
northern cities have arguably been underpowered economically, lacking the critical mass to lever
power and investment from Whitehall and the strong governance arrangements that would allow
them to pool funds and direct them at the best prospects for growth.
The last four years have seen a new flowering of urban collaboration, with most of the north’s great cities now clustered together into city regions with clear economic strategies and substantial pooled investment funds. The most ambitious of the new combined authorities in Greater Manchester has struck deals with government that give the city access to an element of benefits spending and a share in the uplift in national taxation driven by its new tram project.
This collection provides an overview of what this new spirit of collaboration has achieved thus far, and looks ahead to how the new combined authorities could develop in coming years. With both the Conservatives and Labour now committed to multibillion pound growth deals for local government, channelled through local enterprise partnerships, combined authorities are set to become very important players in England’s economic geography.