English devolved areas “too small” – wheel to be reinvented!

After the abolition of the South West Regional Development Agency which was considered too big, we got a Devon and Somerset Local Enterprise Partnership which is now considered too small!!!!! The solution: a South West regional development area!

And if our current LEP area is considered too small, imagine the even smaller mooted “Golden Triangle LEP” (Plymouth, Exeter Torbay)!

So many heads, so much banging together needed.

“… A simple comparison with other similar developed nations suggests that the average size of subnational regional government stands at around 5 million people. The average size of a German länder, for example, is 5.2 million; for French conseil regions it is 5.3 million; and for US states it is 6.1 million. Greater Manchester stands at little over 2.5 million. And are we seriously suggesting that English regional governance should be sub-divided into 39 or 40 separate units?

While clearly there is no right answer to the question of the optimal scale of a functional economic area within a competitive global economy, let alone the right-size for more functional democracy, in the case of the English LEP areas, it is clear that in global terms they are very much at the smaller end of the scale. With Brexit on the horizon and the challenges that might bring in terms of global connectivity, the case for a larger-scale approach to economic strategy and democratic decision-making could not be more clear.

Any new form of subnational governance needs to be developed at scale. While England is too big, our current city-regions and combined authorities are too small. This may well be the reason that ideas such as the Northern Powerhouse or Midlands Engine have in recent times gathered so much momentum. We are still a long way from such ideas taking more political or democratic forms, but to claim they lack public support would be to misread the signs of the times. …”