This paper is intended to reinvigorate the debate on how local areas can play a more active role in supporting sectors like manufacturing to thrive and grow. In it we argue that:
The underpinning principles of devolution – a focus on functional economic geographies, ensuring local decision makers financially gain from their interventions and ensuring there is a strong regional mandate for decisions – will help to improve local outcomes. These are backed by industry and should continue to underpin the approach to devolution in the future.
Transport and infrastructure are strong enablers and should continue as a primary focus of devolution – they are central to productivity and form the bedrock of the local business environment.
Areas that can’t take advantage of the current approach to devolution should look to scale up through mergers. Government should strengthen the financial incentives to support them in doing so, as well as open the debate on new tax responsibilities that could be devolved.
With manufacturing set to be transformed as part of the 4th industrial revolution and central government focussed on negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union, local authorities will have an even more important role to play in the future in supporting businesses.