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The New Kids on the Municipal Block

14/04/2015 11:35 BST | Updated 13/06/2015 10:59 BST

Regeneration is no longer just the preserve of Whitehall and town halls. Sub-regional bodies and their private sector partners are aiming high and getting things done.

The capital is adjusting itself to some new realities. Whether Londoners realise it or not, the traditional pillars of national and local government are increasingly absorbing the views of sub-regional bodies and their private sector partners. In the new municipal landscape, these entities are driving local economic growth and trying out some new ideas along the way.

Beyond SW1 and City Hall, London has a myriad of organisations that are picking up activities and taking responsibility simply because they can. Whilst the main players shrink and endlessly remind us that there's no money, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Business Improvement Districts and the Cross River Partnership (let's call them 'public-private partnerships' for now) are aiming high and getting things done.

BIDs will, from time to time, spring up in London's commercial hotspots. Outwardly their remit is limited to improving the look and feel of their local surroundings, but they are often the organisations that are the driving force behind major regeneration. BIDs are funded through a fee levied on firms operating within set boundary areas; hence they have real money to spend on improving business conditions. BIDs operate in a similar way to LEPs, not least through their reliance on private sector members to make investment decisions.

The Cross River Partnership is a shining example of just how influential these organisations can be when they collaborate. Consisting of seven central London local authorities and 15 BIDs, it has a cross-London remit, allowing it to deliver on major projects funded by the European Union and other institutions to bring significant change and huge benefits to the capital.

Together these bodies occupy the new landscape. Their private sector outlook and spendable resource means they can think bigger and act quickly when opportunities present themselves. In many respects the traditional behemoths of local and central government are effectively relegated to a supporting role rather than a leading one - a role they're not always comfortable with. Where once new local players might have been told what was what if they started getting too influential, the austerity agenda has loosened the command and control instincts of the traditional local authority-led approach to project management.

The opportunity for local authorities and government departments is clearly to adapt to this changing landscape and start trying to work out how to make the most of its dynamic players - let's have a minister with specific responsibility for LEPs and BIDs for example, or greater collaboration between local councils following the example of the Cross River Partnership.

The outposts of local and central government should more readily view and accept the leaders of public private partnerships as willing and able associates with whom strong local alliances can be formed. With vision and drive, the new organisations on the block can move forward during the age of austerity and I am confident that London is well placed to adapt to this new landscape.

This article was originally published in Public Finance, and can be found here.