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Burnley knows what it’s all about

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While the economic climate remains challenging, there is an onus on every place to ensure that it is doing the best it can to compete, attract attention and stimulate growth locally.

Government policy and direction is oriented towards localism and a decentralisation of resources and effort. However, at a time of austerity, is it possible to take up this challenge and, if so, how?

Burnley was once a pre‑eminent industrial town but has more recently faced hard times. Yet things are looking up in a place that has recently tasted Premiership football and wants more of that sort of success in its economy.

Burnley BC chief executive Steve Rumbelow says: “When I first came to the town I could see that while it had issues to address, not least growing the economy and creating quality jobs, it also had huge potential given its proximity to Manchester, economic legacy and wonderful natural environment.

“Unfortunately, we struggled to get a clear message out about what we had to offer and the Manchester connection was a pipe dream without reopening a short section of railway, known locally as the Todmorden Curve.”

Burnley set to work with place specialist thinkingplace to understand and develop a new narrative for the place that would set out what it is for and how it could compete. All parts of the community were engaged but business was particularly targeted to help create a new form of place ambassadorship and provide resources to get things done.

As Steve says, the results have been remarkable.

“Everyone got very excited about deciding what Burnley was all about, how it was special, what it should focus on and telling that story. Just going through the process brought people together and created a new energy,” he says.

“Now we have our story the headlines are much more positive and it has allowed us to set out our case to government with clarity, resulting in a string of successful resource bids over the past couple of years, including regional growth fund and European funding, amounting to £25m.

“This funding includes the new railway line and a new station. Manchester is now commutable and we are part of its story. This has provided the confidence for well in excess of £100m of private sector investment in economic development projects.”

Burnley shows that ‘growing your own’ is possible if you know your story, use it to bring about change, and excite people to own it and tell it.

John Till will be facilitating the Your Local Future workstream at the Solace Summit

The Solace Summit will be will be the UK’s largest gathering of local authority Chief Executives and senior managers. It will be held in Coventry between 16 and 18 October.

Book your place by emailing or phoning 0845 652 4010.  You can pay over the phone by credit card or request an invoice. FInd out more at

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