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How to Put the Power Back – a Decentralised Model

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How to Put the Power Back – a Decentralised Model. Associate Professor Paul Collits Research Director Economic Development and Enterprise Collaboration, USQ. The Joke. No need for a joke to start the presentation as regional policy in Australia is itself the joke.

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how to put the power back a decentralised model

How to Put the Power Back – a Decentralised Model

Associate Professor Paul Collits

Research Director

Economic Development and Enterprise Collaboration, USQ

the joke
The Joke

No need for a joke to start the presentation as regional policy in Australia is itself the joke.

some takes on the regional world
Some Takes on the Regional World
  • “In today’s world, we find that it is increasingly regions that compete – not countries” (McKinsey)
  • “Today we live our lives regionally” (Bruce Katz, Brookings)
  • “It is a tricky business to define a region” (Dore and Woodhill)
  • Regions are simply “generalisations of the human mind” (Walter Isard)
  • A region is a process... Not a thing” (Cooke and Morgan)
some takes
Some Takes...
  • “A region, someone has wryly observed, is an area safely larger than the last one to whose problems we found no solution” (Jane Jacobs)
  • Regionalism is “part of an insidious agenda to end the nation state”, “wasteful, offensive and ultimately sinister” (A British Observer)
  • “Is localism the new regionalism?” (Ward and Hardy)
  • Regionalism is the new black in the USA (see Drabenstott)
  • Declaration: I remain a new regionalism sceptic
three types of regional governance
Three Types of Regional Governance
  • There are three things happening with regional governance
  • The regional coordination of central government policies
  • Regional development
  • Regional planning
  • All have limitations - involve many layers of interventions and activity, multiple and complex processes, often uncoordinated and under-resourced governance and poor evaluation of interventions
  • There is a regional governance deficit
  • Too little OR too much regional governance?
the barriers to regionalism
The Barriers to Regionalism
  • The familiar refrains in Australia – centralism; no regional government; not in the Constitution; no statutory basis to regional organisations; no local taxing powers – hence no mandate
  • Other problems – regional Australia is obsessed with, well, regional Australia, not with regions
  • Regional collaboration remains an unnatural act between non-consenting adults
  • Fragile, possibly false, consensus over regional scale
  • Regions are largely top down constructs in Australia
  • Fragmented, messy arrangements
  • Silos matter – few incentives to own joint projects
  • So... Putting the power back is not simple and centralisation is not the only problem
overcoming the barriers broad scenarios
Overcoming the Barriers – Broad Scenarios
  • 3 options
  • Business as usual
  • Process improvement
  • Process re-engineering
  • But... Is it a process problem? And who takes responsibility?
  • Must government drive it? What about civic entrepreneurship?
  • Urgent need to define “reach”
  • Are spatial constructs like regions themselves clunky and outdated? eg by the new mobility?
overcoming the barriers a decentralised model
Overcoming the Barriers – A Decentralised Model
  • Abolish RDAs and start again?
  • Let regions define regions
  • Don’t be hung up on new regionalist memes
  • Make the case that ‘regions’ are where it is at
  • Look at the old and new UK models
  • Address the lack-of-mandate issue
  • Governments to commit to genuine localism/regionalism, not localism/regionalism-lite
  • Reward collaboration
  • Resource new bodies (which could be old RDAs)
  • Let new bodies decide on AND fund regional priorities
  • Remove oversight from Ministers – a regions commission?
  • Resource research on drivers and models of collaboration – a project for RUN?? Or RAI??
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