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City deals, decentralisation and the governance of local infrastructure funding and financing in the UK

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2020

Andy Pike*
Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS), Newcastle University


This article reflects upon a comparative analysis of the 28 ‘City Deals’ agreed between UK government, Scottish government and city-regional groupings in England and Scotland since 2011. The City Deals have sought to incentivise local actors to identify and prioritise ‘asks’ of UK and devolved governments, fund, finance and deliver infrastructure and other economic development interventions, and to reform city/city-region governance structures to ‘unlock’ urban growth. Our analysis is based upon 32 in-depth interviews with lead actors in the City Deals, including elected officials from local government, central government officials and policy specialists from think tanks, as well as a secondary literature review. We find that City Deals are reworking the role of the UK state internally and through changed central-local and intra-local (city-regional) relations. Regional and urban public policy is being recast as a process of deal-making founded upon territorial competition and negotiation between central national and local actors unequally endowed with information and resources, leading to highly imbalanced and inequitable outcomes across the UK. As a template for public policymaking in an emergent and decentralising context, deal-making raises substantive and unresolved issues for governance in the UK that are especially pertinent as the new Conservative government at Westminster pledges to widen and broaden this approach as a central component of its future devolution strategy and policy.

Research Articles
Copyright © 2015 National Institute of Economic and Social Research

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Thanks to the editors of the special issue and the reviewers for their comments, and the participants in the studies that informed this research. This article is based on research undertaken as part of the Infrastructure BUsiness models, valuation and Innovation for Local Delivery (iBUILD) research centre funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (Grant reference: EP/K012398/1) (


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