Local government

Combined Authorities: signs of success

Paul Dossett Paul Dossett

It is still early days for most combined authorities (CAs) so the political and administrative difficulties of adopting this model are not to be underestimated. 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 sustainable growth of places over time. 

To achieve this Grant Thornton UK and Bond Dickinson have published the first report designed to benchmark the success of CAs. 

The report uses Grant Thornton's Vibrant Economy Index that 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. 

We 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. We believe that CAs have the potential to play a transformative role in creating vibrant economies within city regions. 

The key findings include:

  • CAs must begin to reduce the institutional blurring with historic local government structures that has occurred with their formation. As greater clarity emerges over their roles, functions, and profiles of individual mayors; their perceived legitimacy will increase.
  • 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).
  • There is no single checklist or set of criteria for measuring the success of mayors and combined authorities, each city region must articulate its own challenges and show progress in tackling them.
  • A balanced set of benchmarks encompassing both economic and social success will, however, serve as a useful stimulus for the debate around the impact of the combined authority model over time.

Key statistics:

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Vibrant Economy Index - measuring England’s success

We believe a vibrant economy is one that goes beyond financial returns and takes into account the wellbeing of society and everybody’s ability to thrive.  Our Vibrant Economy Index not only considers prosperity, but also dynamism and opportunity; inclusion and equality; health, wellbeing and happiness; resilience and sustainability; and community, trust and belonging. Explore the index