Risen from the ashes, all hail the new quango

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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We are on the brink of a wonderful new era for which nobody voted.

A brand new deal has been won. A ‘City Deal’.

City Deals. What’s not to like about an incredibly complicated 25-year bureaucratic entanglement which has arisen from nowhere since 2011 and will shortly enmesh around two-thirds of Britain (by populace)?

Every one of the 28 deals, both done and imminent, is the fruit of skilful negotiation, a frankly baffled public is told, between Westminster and the relevant Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP – we should sue).

Rejoice! A valuable deal has been clinched on our behalf!

Billions of quid will pour forth, bearing jobs by the ten-thousand. A brisk online media survey of City Deal news reveals each packs the same prophecy (if all work as sold we are indeed in clover); repetition, repetition, repetition, and in this way new common sense is made.

And what is more new common sense than the Local Enterprise Partnerships?

After all, who knows better than business what business needs? Me? You? Our elected representatives? Local authorities telling business what it can and can’t build, develop, despoil or demolish?

Crazy system. Luckily for failing democracy, LEPs are here to steer public development policy (and huge piles of our quids) in a way more suited to the coming realities.

And what’s not to like about LEPs? The new superquango, each of the 39 dotted around England an island of unaccountable power unto itself.

Dominated by business elites (local, national and international), limited seats at the board table for our elected representatives, who have traded regional government’s former last word for a mere voice in the debate.

Not before time, some say. Cons mostly, but lots of Libs & Labs also glad to play ball. Let’s get the vested interests (for what else is the democratically accountable authority of a specific area if not that) out of wealth creating hair!

Set entrepreneurs free! Free of us, the petty public, our grousing and fear, this road, that plant, the other industrial process!

Or maybe you think this is a bad thing. A very bad thing. Thin end of a dystopian corporate governance wedge.

Next stop Rollerball!