City Deals were conceived as a mechanism to drive stronger economic growth across the major centres outside of London in the United Kingdom. A City Deal is an agreement between two or more tiers of government to prioritise and jointly invest in major infrastructure based on its expected economic growth.
A City Deal can broadly be characterised as:
• A long term funding commitment over 10, 20 or 30 that links funding with a set of economic and social/environmental outcomes that are agreed at the outset.
• An agreement that brings local and higher tiers of governments together to prioritise infrastructure and supporting non-infrastructure programs in the economic region.
• A guarantee that agreed funding mechanisms will be provided to ensure delivery of infrastructure plans and supported programs.
The City Deals model allows partners to earn back additional revenue from windfalls created through faster economic development. It enables councils to come together and agree on local infrastructure priorities, increases local investment and focuses on maximising economic growth. More than 20 deals have been signed in the UK, and the Council of Mayors’ (SEQ) work so far shows the model could effectively be adapted to suit the needs of South East Queensland.
Towards an SEQ City Deal
A City Deal is a rolling funding agreement between all tiers of government to deliver a pipeline of investment in a region to promote economic growth, typically spanning 15 – 20 years. As delivered projects reach maturity, the uplift created can be captured and reinvested back into the City Deal.
First trialled by the UK Government in 2012, the concept of applying the innovative funding model in Australia was first floated in a 2014 joint study by the Council of Mayors (SEQ), Property Council of Australia and the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning. The City Deal funding model has since become a key pillar of the Turnbull Government’s Cities agenda.
While the region still awaits the Commonwealth’s confirmation as the next City Deal, extensive work towards an SEQ City Deal has been undertaken by the Council of Mayors (SEQ) and the Queensland Government.
Scope of an SEQ City Deal
An announcement of an SEQ City Deal would signal the start of negotiations to confirm the parameters of the arrangement. Details such as the length of the deal, financial contributions, and priority projects will be decided during these negotiations.
While an SEQ City Deal will have a primary focus on regional connectivity, a City Deal is much more than a mechanism for road and rail infrastructure. An SEQ City Deal will have a broad scope covering the following domains: jobs and skills, innovation and digital economy, investment in infrastructure, governance, city planning and regulation, housing, and liveability and sustainability.
Using the Townsville City Deal as an example, beyond the delivery of a new stadium it also included rail upgrades, an accelerated State Development Area, and the commitment of a Water Security Taskforce. Similarly, an SEQ City Deal could deliver a sustainable funding source for programs such as the Resilient Rivers Initiative alongside much-needed infrastructure projects.
Understandably, the Commonwealth are giving careful consideration to an SEQ City Deal which will represent the largest and most complex City Deal in Australia. Although the Council of Mayors (SEQ) and Queensland Government are more than prepared to initiate negotiations, the Commonwealth must balance its resources across existing deals and the commencement of new deals.
Should negotiations commence, work to confirm an SEQ City Deal is anticipated to take between 12 – 18 months. The largest deal to date, the Western Sydney City Deal, took more than 18 months to complete, although significant time was needed to bring participating councils collectively to the table.
South East Queensland has a considerable advantage in this space, given that the Council of Mayors (SEQ) has been a uniting force for SEQ councils since 2005. As a result, these councils have an established history of working together identify and advocate for regional priorities and deliver regional significant projects.