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February 1, 2018

Place-making: The next generation?

How Government supports our local economies has once again come into sharper focus. Not a topic Government has grappled with effectively over the years, not least with multiple policy changes every few years. The next step could however be more challenging.

With an unknown economic future looming post the final Brexit deal, coupled with political uncertainty elsewhere in the world, it is imperative that Local Areas set out how their new Local Industrial Strategy and importantly their agreed priorities, will be delivered. But haven’t we been here before?

At Local Enterprise Partnership level, ‘Strategic Economic Plans’ (SEPs) have existed for 7 years. Each in turn, setting-out the Economic Vision and Investment Priorities for their area in line with Government’s requirements. ‘SEPs’ were rewarded with varying levels of Growth Deal funds, based upon a tried and tested, yet opaque funding methodology.

But did the SEPs crack the secret to place-making prioritisation?  Or was the result more political bun-fighting and more pie in the sky schemes that belong in their own economic reality? Assuming the Local Industrial Strategies are to be seen as a new way forward, can we expect a radically different approach, or simply more of the same?

What remains to be seen is whether there will be any funds attached to the new strategies, as was the case with Growth Deal funds being attached to the SEPs.  The experience of the Science Innovation Audits however casts some doubt on the Government’s future strategy for funding growth.  The Science Innovation Audit experience suggests that some strategies are merely more than ‘audits’, designed to help the Government better understand the assets that exist across the country.

Here at Deyton Bell, we are sensing that Government has new plans for the Local Industrial Strategies.  Government appears to be seeking a more evidenced based approach to justify priorities. It will be critical that priorities meet local communities and business requirements and can demonstrate that investment will assist the economy.  While it has never been easy, there are mechanisms to gather evidence and analysis readily and the ability to garner a strong business has never been easier.  Recognising that most Local Enterprise Partnerships and Local Authorities are strapped for resource, there may be a need to consider other approaches to researching, drafting and consulting up the new Local Industrial Strategies.

What is clear is that the amount of funding available will never satisfy some of the astronomical asks that came forward through the SEP process, nor mask the underinvestment in parts of our economic infrastructure over successive generations.  It will therefore be pertinent for local areas to develop realistic and detailed costed proposals as the backbone of their Local Industrial Strategies.

What is at stake is the performance of our local economies, ranging from growth magnets struggling to keep pace with infrastructure requirements to those areas seeking significant regeneration.  The stakes will be high in a post Brexit Britain irrespective of the nature of the deal the country achieves with the EU.  One element of the ‘unknown’ that comes from the Leave vote can be countenanced by strong place-making that enables local economies to deliver the changes local communities are demanding.

Deyton Bell have considerable experience, in depth knowledge, and a successful track record advising UK local Government on the issues involved. Please contact us if you would like to explore if we might be able to help you and your colleagues consider the issues, the risks, the opportunities and most importantly, how they can be appropriately addressed.

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