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Neil McInroy

All posts tagged: economic development

The way forward for LEPs

23 August, 2011 Posted by: -

Local Economic Development is as much about setting the conditions for future success as immediate short term gains.  Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), have to look beyond the immediate national and global economic concerns, build up power and ignite a process toward a longer term shift in the economic destiny and resilience of local areas.

Of course, all the LEPs differ in size and history, and the challenge for each Local Enterprise Partnership (LEPs) is very different.  In some areas, LEPs have emerged from pre-existing economic partnerships and groupings, with staff, some existing resources through Local government, and well established plans of action. However some LEPs are new, have no heritage, cover new economic geographies, and have limited experience of joint working. 

In some areas, LEPs are building on existing growth, as they cover areas which have some economic success and a diverse range of successful businesses. However, in many locations, due to decades of de-industrialisation and the failure to tackle systemic local economic problems, there is no short term fix. Their journey will be harder and longer.

Nevertheless, they all share the possibility of doing good, through the ‘traditional’ standard fare open to them as set out in the Local Growth White Paper.

The 22 new ‘enterprise zones’, include incentives via tax breaks and simplified planning.  There is also stimulus funding via Regional Growth Fund (RGF) and Capacity Fund, and greater connections with national priorities around digital and transport infrastructure.  I am confident that some Local Enterprise Partnerships will be make a difference.  However, even in relatively successful areas, these policies still need to avoid the pitfalls and be used effectively.

In other areas, these policies will struggle for traction and impact. This potential struggle for all LEPs is of course framed by national and global economic turbulence.  However this is beyond their influence.  Therefore, they must grab real influence on the key pistons of local growth- capital, labour and have a focus on local economic inputs such as innovation which are often ermbedded within local culture, place and society.

Many areas are starved of capital investment.  The funds through the RGF are welcome, but for some areas, offer up a meagre appetiser, to the hearty meal which is needed.  That is why LEPs’ working with Local Authorities and private finance must also strive to establish their own investment funds.  Furthermore, the idea of an ‘area growth budget’, devolving Whitehall budgets to areas (as outlined in the city finance commission report), would be an excellent means by which LEPs, working with Local Authorities, could potentially achieve greater weight around investing for growth

Many parts of the England, in their industrial heyday, prided themselves on having a uniquely skilled, inventive and productive labour force.  This is clearly no longer the case in many areas.  The RDA’s made little impact into skills; and nationally we have reorganised and tinkered with the ‘skills game’ with little success.  LEPs must not make the mistakes of the past.  They must prioritise skills, forging significant links and influence over the Skills Funding Agency ensuring that employers lead on skills.

Finally, whilst mindful of mission creep, LEPs need influence over the life of place and place-based factors which nurture creativity and innovation energy. This includes relationships with the community and voluntary sector, and factors including social capital, investment in public realm, quality of life, culture and the arts.

These aspects, may be seen as irrelevant and a distraction by some. They are also clearly the kind of things which are most likely to be forgotten or ignored by LEPs. 

However, the ways in which businesses identify and have connections with the ‘life of place’ are well established inputs and conditions for growth.  These need to be seen as powerful and are exactly the type of things which can create real penetrative and enduring depth to economic development work. Place policy is economic policy.

LEPs must move one step beyond the opportunities afforded by the standard policy fare.  Whilst short-term growth is sought, they must consider the deeper underlying economic conditions and be mindful of economic resilience in the long term.

Local Government must ensure they retain a place stewardship role

15 March, 2011 Posted by: -

 ‘You know what, I am not sure I got into local politics to just manage contracts’.  This statement, uttered to me a few weeks ago by an experienced local (Conservative) councillor, goes to the nub of fears around the future of local government

Should local government and elected members just outsource all service contracts to the ‘big society’ and commercial deliverers of services and/or should it play a democratically accountable place stewardship and coordinating role?  I would argue that too much of the former, fetters the latter.  Some areas may be fast approaching this tipping point and we need a much deeper debate about the consequences.

The cuts have created a dynamic and head of steam which make outsourcing a strong option.  Firstly, the big society and commercial delivery are perceived as more efficient.  Secondly, it gets the costs isolated as part of a contract and reduces the liabilities.  These factors have created a dynamic where direct service delivery responsibility is moving away from Local government.

I am not suggesting that the use of the private and social sectors in service delivery is a bad thing.  Quite the reverse, some services have always been delivered by a blend of public, private and social sectors.  A plurality of service delivery is a good thing.   However, there is a key place stewardship role, which too much willy nilly and short term outsourcing will kill. 

This place stewardship role is about the qualities and values of public service.  It is the ability to ensure a sense of fairness, and equality of access to services.  It is also about governance and connecting up different services in creative ways.  And fundamentally, its about sovereignty and maintaining direct democratic accountability over a service. 

As a resident, in inner city Manchester, I quite like the fact that I can speak to my local councillor about a range of local services, knowing that she and local cabinet colleagues are accountable for them.  Even if I don’t like how the service is run, I can even make a vote for an alternative candidate and party.  I have a connection, I understand the connection, as does the councillor and all my fellow residents.  In contrast, how would I influence a service, if all the local council does is manage a contract, I can’t vote against the CEO or the board of a large commercial company?

Also, are we weakening the power of local government to act as key lynchpins and actors in times of stress?   All places are at the vagaries of unpredictable events and ongoing environmental, economic or social shocks.  When these shocks occur, the strategic place steward role of local government is to mobilise quickly, harness resources, relationships and reshape services and activity accordingly. 

Furthermore, what about opportunities?  A major investment opportunity or securing a major sporting or cultural event, is achieved through strategic capacity across a range of partners, drawn together by local government.  

Can these fundamental stewardship roles be achieved if all or the majority of our services are outsourced and part of legally binding contractual arrangements?  It could well be that outsourcing on a grand scale, weakens the stewardship and strategic role of local government.  In doing this we are making our places vulnerable to adverse change, and leaving our places weakened in attempts to realise fleeting moments of opportunity.

All of this is absent from present debate, and the localism bill is silent on them.  The future has to be about a strong local government which creates the conditions and ensures the health and wealth of local places, communities, businesses and residents.  It can’t do this alone, but it must retain the capacity to lead and steward place.

Local economies in peril?

9 March, 2011 Posted by: -

Good local economic policies are never enough on their own, we also need plans and strategies.  This is not a new problem, local economic strategy and planning has been limping for a long time.Some places lost their economic and industrial raison d’etre 30 years or more ago, and despite lots of regeneration and economic effort, are still trying to find a new economic destiny. Furthermore, with the advent of economic recession, and with ongoing threats of peak oil and climate change our planning and strategy is woefully inadequate.

Some recent local economic policies are welcome.  However, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are not proven as a punchy economic planning vehicle and in many instances, are mired in capacity issues. The Regional Growth Fund is fine, but is dwarfed by the deep and rooted economic structural problems some localities face.  Recent consideration of a return to some form of 80’s enterprise zones, smacks of a lack of ideas and is old thinking for very different times.

Furthermore,even if these policies, were sufficient, we are also seeing a thinning of local economic knowledge and capacity, via the loss of personnel and resources.Local authority economic development departments and associated activity are reducing, as money is being diverted away from them, to protect frontline and statutory services.  This loss of capacity is also reducing the ability to make the vital networks and strategic links at various scales between economic, social, cultural services and policies.

How do we get a big (productive) society, if it is merely left to the understaffed LEP to forge the strategic connections between the social economy and large commercial investment? Or as a director of economic development said to me ‘where are the LEPs in matching large work programme contractors with a local understanding of demand?’

Let’s not be mistaken, there is an emerging crisis in local economic thinking, policy and strategy.  

Some may believe that local economic development is insignificant to the UK Plc economic policy as a whole, or unnecessary state meddling. Strategies and plans may also be perceived as old hat and part of a public sector bureaucracy which has got out of control.It is folly, dangerous and wrong to think this.  

To compete as a country, the constituent local parts play a vital role, and we need to do what every other country and successful locality does and strategically plan our local economies.  Even in the more economically vibrant parts of England, we need to maintain an edge and restlessly assist economic success in perpetuity, through forward thinking strategy and plans. Our international competitors are.

Of course, the absence of strategy and some scattergun policy may give some economic success and growth, but lessons from countless localities at home and abroad, tell us that it will tend to be more spatially uneven, make existing social and economic divides worse and will be transient and footloose, moving on, come the advent of cheaper labour or costs elsewhere. 

Sound economic strategies and plans and linked up development policy are not a predicated on large amounts of public resources.  For instance CLES’s work on economic resilience majors on creating new place based economic strategies which focus on the conditions for success, reducing the need for heavy interventions in the future.  This work highlights how place policy is economic policy. Who wants to invest, live or create wealth in a bad place?

Local and Central government needs to urgently start taking local economic development a lot more seriously and start thinking about new ways of delivering on it.  Disconnected policies and thin narrow strategies will not do the job.   

Localism needs to deliver on community cohesion

8 February, 2011 Posted by: -

In his recent speech at the Munich security conference, Prime Minister David Cameron criticised multiculturalism and called for a “shared sense of national identity” and efforts to promote “that feeling of belonging in our communities that is key to achieving true cohesion”.

However, we know there are fewer funds available for support activities relating to diversity policy and equalities issues.  In recent research by CLES, we found that cuts to Community Cohesion grants will jeopardise hard won progress on the very ‘big society’ issues such as local networks, connections and relationships, which Cameron hopes to promote.  In addition, these changes will potentially undermine future economic recovery.

In two separate pieces or research work, which have taken us to Copenhagen, Blackburn and Manchester, CLES has explored ethnic diversity policy, what its future should be and, in the UK context, the impact of cuts.  The work tells us a number of key things.

Firstly, it is abundantly clear that it is a false economy to not invest in policies that promote good relationships between communities.  Failure to invest and fund this kind of policy hinders the development of social capital and entrepreneurialism and employment skills, and hampering economic development more generally.

Secondly, it is no good just relying oneconomic success.  As proven from our work in Denmark, a focus on ethnic groups gaining employment and becoming active in the economy, does not on its own, tackle the wider issues of discrimination and lack of equality faced by certain ethnic groups. 

Thirdly, this is not just a localist agenda: national policy focus and help is still required.  In the UK, the days of nationally defined policy frameworks such as the Community Cohesion agenda and the Multiculturalist model that preceded it are gone. This undoubtedly presents an opportunity for local government to develop, creative and locally specific projects which foster good community relations and respect for ethnic diversity.  However, a lack of central steer and lack of local funds may prove problematic for the areas with growing ethnic populations, who do not have a long history of migration and ethnic diversity policy making or where population change is rapid or unexpected.

Fourthly, the notion and drive for a Big Society will falter even more, unless it addresses barriers to participation.  Our work shows that it is imperative that the government works to ensure equal access to participation in the Big Society and develops appropriate processes for monitoring diversity and equality.  Neither of these points have yet been adequately addressed as part of this emerging agenda.  As its stands, many groups face multiple barriers to accessing existing services, let alone having a ‘big society’ stake in delivering them.

Our work in this area makes the case thatcentral government must allocate sufficient funds to enable local government to develop policies that are effective in harnessing the opportunities of ethnic diversity and overcoming any potential challenges that can emerge from local population change.  Failure to do so, runs the real risk that the climate of public sector efficiencies will result in a rise in community tensions.  As such, it is crucial that local authorities retain capacity and that central government provides resources where necessary for activities that promote good community relations.

Comments (3)

Cooperatives cannot be the bargain basement for local services

22 November, 2010 Posted by: -

TheRochdale Pioneerswould be turning the grave if they thought cooperatives were about ‘more for less’!  It is laudable of theCabinet Officeminister Francis Maude to set out his vision across public services of a ‘rights to provide’in which mutuals and cooperatives would herald in ‘radical shifts in ownership, accountability and financing’ in public services.  I am all for experimentation, innovation and creativity in the delivery of public services.  However, there are valid questions of creeping privatisation or whether the delivery of a public service such as a Sure Start centre can be likened to the retail offer of John Lewis.  Furthermore, we cannot assume, that cooperatives and their rich heritage will be some elixir for public sector cuts.  

I am not the best placed to speak up for the cooperative movement, but my raw enthusiasm for the movement is grounded in the core values of theRochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, who first set out the principles on which co-operatives around the world operate to this day. These are now reflected in the International Cooperative Alliance, who state that:

‘Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others’

These values, to my understanding, must be reflected in operational terms to indubitable standards of effectiveness. Standards of employment, cooperation and of service. Efficiency is not the main driver here.  We must ensure the proposed flourishing of cooperatives in the deliver of public services, reflect these values and standards.  For example, they cannot be a Trojan horse for inferior employment terms and conditions.

Place leadership is something which you do not hear a lot about at the moment. We should be mindful, that local government performs vital overarching stewardship and coordination of  activities and services within the places we live. However, the deployment of cooperatives, could lead to the atomisation of service delivery within any given locality, through splintered ownership.  This will be recipe for a local government losing more strategic capacity.  This indeed would be ironic give the cooperative movement is all about collaboration.    

As Francis Maude says lets ‘challenge traditional public service structures and unleash pent-up ideas and innovation’.  However, we must not unleash an abuse of cooperative traditions, which fragment and denude the standard of public service delivery, and create a hollowed out local government who can no longer effectively steward the destiny of local places. 

Big society needs to strengthen the way we already live - not undermine it

10 November, 2010 Posted by: -

For all the talk about how bad Britain is and how we need a big society not a big state, it is worth remembering that the communities and places of Britain have some great strengths.  In the rush to cut and change, we need to be careful that we do not inadvertently start undermining some of the good things about the way we live and jeopardise the resilience and strength of many local places.  

I write this having just returned from a trip to Australia.  Invited as an international guest speaker to the Melbourne Place Making Series and having then kicked off another CLES economic resilience pilot project, followed by a lecture tour with villagewell and PPS - Project for Public Places, I saw, discussed and debated many old and new places which did or did not work well.  Some places lacked things that we in Britain often just take for granted.

Economically Australia is in a much better place than the UK, buoyed by a mineral rich commodity based economy.  However, many local places suffer from low density and car dependency dominated by housing with limited local economies and social networks.  Australia and Melbourne in particular has great thinking and plans and is making strides in densifying urban communities as part of its population growth trajectories. With Aussie boldness, they know what they need to do and are doing it.  Walkable, low carbon communities with centres of local economic and social activity are the aim. However, Melbourne craves for some of the communities many of us live in here in the UK. 

A wee walk to the locally owned shop, community centre or voluntary group, a local community garden or a incidental meet with a neighbour, are things we take for granted.  However, this is the social and economic activity which is important for creating a sense of place and vital for human well being.  This is the Big British Society and we must make it even better, shield it where it is under threat, and grow it in suburbia, and those small towns and villages and inner city places where it has never existed or has been eroded.   

We must be wary of assuming that this type of living is an indubitable presence, inscribed in perpetuity in the fabric of British life.  At this juncture, this type of place and living is vulnerable to forces which ignore local economies and think the global economy is benign.  It is threatened by centralism which thinks the economy is just about UK plc and our trade links with China.  It is undermined by cuts to voluntary activity and the centres and buildings where community activity takes place.  It is weakened by local government which no longer has the resource capacity to effectively steward and manage local places. 

Many people in Britain do not enjoy living in great places.  Inequality is growing.  However, coming back to Britain has made me realise how precious (and vulnerable) some great places are and how we really need to cherish and create them for all communities. This is not some ‘good old blighty’ nostalgic trip.  This is informed by best practice in what makes great places.   For all the talk of big society, small state we need a big awareness about what we could be losing.

High stakes in rebalancing local economies

2 September, 2010 Posted by: -

As regards jobs, the coalition Government, appears sceptical about regeneration through public expenditure. For them, the private sector is ‘crowded out’ by a public sector which is distorting markets and inflating wage levels. In employment terms, the Government’s focus is on private sector jobs and rebalancing labour markets, away from public sector employment.

The employment rebalancing is predicated on two basic assumptions. Firstly, as the public sector workforce reduces, ex-public sector employees will get jobs in the private sector. Secondly, it is also expected that new private sector companies will move to the locality and existing companies will start to recruit more, attracted by the low wage levels and costs.

We need a dose of local reality here. There are real flaws in this simplistic assumption, and some huge barriers to surmount.

Firstly, these low wage costs, are not the big attraction, they seem. For instance - Stoke, already has high levels of public sector workers (35.6%), alongside high levels of worklessness (19.6%), JSA claimants (4.8%), and low wage levels £402.40, compared to say £560 in Reading. Clearly the private sector is not attracted by the pre-existing low wage levels.

Secondly, a lot of jobs are needed. The newly unemployed public sector worker will be competing with their former work colleagues for jobs and with the existing unemployed and presumably, others who are entering the job market through benefit system changes.

Thirdly, the public sector procures goods and services from the private sector and creates a load of indirect and induced employment. In cutting public spending, we are also cutting public sector supply chains. Work CLES has undertaken for Manchester City Council suggest that their supply chain supports 5000 indirect jobs in the private sector.

Fourthly, the private sector is hardly enjoying a buoyant economy at the moment. There is still real uncertainty over investment and business finance. Thus no company is recruiting with any real gusto.

An excellent article by Tim Leunig in Prospect has highlighted how, the outlook for areas with high levels of public sector employment are not good and the options are miserable. Accept huge levels of unemployment, see populations decline or have very very low wages. We could be heading for an even bleaker economic picture, than the one we had over the last 10 years, entrenchment of problems, with even greater social and community misery.

To avert this, the government must focus on direct assistance to specific areas. It must use funds such as the regional growth fund to help facilitate a long term transition to a rebalanced economy. The government may not like regeneration, but to avoid untold misery in some locations it will, in the short term, need to get back to doing some good old fashioned partnership based regeneration: investing in basic employment schemes, preserving existing skills activity, providing and removing the moratorium on the Grants for Business Investment. This will create transition time and space for the economy to get over the public sector funding shock, for rebalancing to occur gradually and hopefully avert misery for many.

LEPs must nurture adaptable local economies

24 August, 2010 Posted by: -

Local Enterprise Partnerships, in the very near future are going to have to stop thinking about structure and geographies and start thinking about what they are going to actually do.  They will need to start thinking about how they are going to rebalance local economies, develop business and new local economic futures.

For a starter, if they are to work, they will need to acknowledge and appreciate that the economy is a system and a network and that unpredictability and complexity is the norm.  The economic fortunes of a locality (as in any system) do not alter in a linear way.  In the same way as we cannot understand and nurture an ecosystem by just looking at the soil conditions, we cannot get to grips with rebalancing local economies toward private sector growth and commercial employment by just isolating single aspects such inward investment.  There is no single silver bullet.  This is the economics of the past. 

The successful LEPs - the ones that will make a real economic difference - will be the ones who understand that the economy, like an ecosystem, functions through the interaction of many elements operating at different scales and timescales. 

There are no set geographic scales (despite all the ongoing debate about adminstrative boundaries) - business operates at various scales appropriate to where their markets are.  There is no fixed operating environment fixed in perpetuity - events, such as floods throw economic strategies and policies.  There is no single timeframe or speed of operation - the tube breaks down and in minutes the important business meeting is missed; stock markets crash over days and weeks, housing markets change over months, and long term structural economic change can take decades.

LEPs, must not view the economy as some efficient, deterministic, running on automatic machine.  Successful LEPs will know and will create an operation which appreciates that the components of a local economy are in constant flux and are unpredictable and that adaptability and flexibility in planning a local economy is key.    In this they will need to major on four key things, which are key to this flexibility and adaptability. - Good economic intelligence and knowledge; effective connections between and within ALL elements of the economy (public, social and commercial economies); Market relationships within and outwith the LEP geography and innovative and creative business networks.

LEPs must nurture adaptable local economies.

LEPS: Be bold, but we need to focus on what they are going to do

5 August, 2010 Posted by: -

When I first read/heard about Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), I thought yippee! Here we go - a cultural shift in local economic thinking, a special purpose body, like I have seen in the US or Japan, designed to ‘turbo-charge’ enterprise and serve as a means of rebalancing local economies.

A bit less about form, less about process and more about the fundamental economic conditions. However, as the weeks have passed, I’ve grown uncertain, the old culture of partnership is slipping in. LGC and Allister Hayman have been taking the lead in documenting this debate around structure, form, geographies and which area is joining with whom.

Some LEP thinking would appear to be less about challenging the fundamental conditions to success and rebalancing economies, and more about being all things to all people.

There is a danger, that they become wish lists and we end up with another nebulous economic development partnership and ‘talking shop’ - however, this time with less money!

Fair play to Eric Pickles though! He has thrown down a challenge, and is quite clear in saying to local government that LEPs are ‘…up to you. Be as ambitious as you can. Be as radical as you like. Be as bold as you want’.

This challenge is energising.

However, as I have previously argued we  are in danger of getting carried away with being bold about form without truly considering function.

It is great to be energised, but boldness is not about doing whatever you want and just claiming power for powers sake, we need boldness which is grounded in local need and context and is new power with purpose.

Radical is not about ripping up the past and filling it with some dreamy economic future, it is about creative and focussed action. Ambition is not about statements, its about achieving realistic goals. We need to be bold, however, LEPS need to make a fundamental difference.

There has to be many different types of LEPs.  Local economies are not the same. The LEPs in core cities and city regions, and in areas where we have Multi Area Agreements, have some of their own resources and capacity.

They can create LEPs which are successors to existing LSP economic partnerships. They should gain RDA power and be enabled and emboldened to join up all the sectors and be the integrated body, covering the multifarious streams of ‘the economy’. However, this cannot and perhaps should not be the model for all.Many locations will have very little economic resources or capacity.

In these locations, there is a crying need to go back to first principles, unpick the problems through good evidence, focus on the key barriers and impediments to growth and rebalancing economies and create LEPs with tight remits.

How to do we create LEPs that make a difference? The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) ‘resilient economies’ work, tells us, that we need to look at the basic relational elements within the economy which lead to growth conditions and economic rebalancing.

LEPs could be akin to best practice in public/business alliances, which are common in many parts of the world. They would both challenge the practice of economic development in local government and confront private business and chambers of commerce to rethink how they operate, whilst at the same time allowing them to nurture innovation and  a new context to doing business.

This means honing in on rebalancing  the relationship between the social, commercial and public economies.

In practical terms, this means a relationship which forges a new way to harness wealth creation locally and adopts new ways of funding and de-risking investment. It is about obvious things like procurement, local buyer networks and supply chains.

We also need a new culture between commerce and the social economy. This is not just about simple corporate social responsibility, instead it is about new forms of philanthro-capitalism, and a build-up of innovative capital, accelerating social entrepreneurship and developing social businesses.

As a profession, economic development does not lack ambition. We know what the ultimate goal is. Speak to any economic development professional anywhere in the world and the holy grail is a successful economy(not necessarily growing!) which is integrated and connected up to high levels of well-being, inclusive social outcomes and the nurtures and protects the environment.

This is the radical and ambitious goal. However let’s be honest, many places are starting with deep seated conditions - structural economic and social problems which have been around in some instances for over 30 years.

LEPs need to recognise this, get down to the basic foundations, look at the relationships and start to make the changes which will reap rewards in the long term.

Comments (2)

Cuts with a future

4 May, 2010 Posted by: -

Ok, cuts in Local Government are underway.  Many areas are worried and do not know what to do.  Now before time pressures mean that we start madly slashing away, we in the local government community urgently need a plan, not just for the short term cuts, but also for the long-term.

In my view, cuts without due regard to longer term place stewardship and retaining an ability to think and act strategically are potentially pernicious and deeply damaging.  If they are implemented clumsily, with narrow value for money as the sole concern, they have the potential of hollowing out the longer term capacity to act. They could irrevocably weaken core services and put locations in peril by leaving local government ill-equipped to deal with future economic turbulence, environmental change, planning adaptation requirements or social events. 

Therefore, whilst accepting some public sector cuts, we must also look to the longer term and think about what the challenges could be.  There are clear red lines which we should not cross.  These red lines are ill thought through cuts which result in loss of power and a reduction in corporate research, strategic planning and intelligence functions. 

Local government is and should remain the glue, the connector with capacity which ensures strategic place stewardship and the effective delivery of public services.  We cannot irrevocably denude the ‘corporate brain’ of local government. That would be a disaster.  At this time, corporate research and strategic planning is of more not less importance. 

For example in economic development terms, we need to retain an understanding of how the commercial and the social sectors operate within a place and how they can contribute to service delivery.  It means delivering on the Local Economic Assessment. Non - statutory service areas such as Economic Development may look like easy pickings.  However, this service area contains future economic success of a locality and to to cut may just stoke up problems and it is a is a false economy. 

In Total place - the whole area approach to public services, cuts are viewed as an opportunity, as a chance to do things differently, to be more efficient.  This is correct.  However, I am not sure or convinced there is enough focus on the longer term challenges, corporate power and function, capacity, place making and resilient capabilities in dealing with future shocks and change. 

Cuts need to be intrinsically linked to power now and in the future. Total place cannot be solely about the public sector coming up with cuts and making the harsh decisions, whilst ultimate strategic power dissipates in an uncoordinated way.  We cannot have a cuts which merely create a warped equation which means less resources = less power.  As Total Place partially indicates, in a time of less resources we need more power over them, not less.  We need an escalation of local government influence, power and place stewardship. However, it should not be about some perverse ‘race to the bottom’, or some tortuous horse trading to get more central resources where the harder you cut the more plaudits you will get. 

Therefore, before any cuts should be made, we need a coherent plan. This plan needs to consider what to cut, for how long and what its consequence on power and strategic place stewardship could be.  We must acknowledge that all cuts are not efficiencies and recognise the difference and be honest.  By making a cut, are we irrevocably retaining or undermining future strategic capacity?  Cuts cannot jeopardise the capacity which ensures expertise in a particular area.  It may be about reducing direct service delivery but the cuts must not reduce confidence to act, including leadership capacity, intelligence gathering, understanding and power.

To ask this question is to start to create a system of cuts with a plan, which help to ensure effective place resilience in the future. These are cuts that acknowledge the strategic opportunity, but know there will be challenges ahead which will require understanding and leadership. These are cuts which recognise the ongoing need for more power. These are cuts with a future.

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