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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT REMAINS A KEY LOCAL GOVERNMENT PRIORITY

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Councils' expenditure on economic development in Scotland is significant. This is the key message to emerge from an...
Councils' expenditure on economic development in Scotland is significant. This is the key message to emerge from an independent survey of Scottish councils' economic development activity published today.

On average, Scottish councils spend four times as much as their counterparts in England and Wales on economic development and regeneration.

The report confirms that Scotland's councils remain major players in the provision of direct economic development services and that economic development remains a priority for local government.

The survey shows that last year councils spent over£90 million on directly

supporting the economic development of their areas.

The report also highlights that councils have increasingly been working in partnership with other providers, especially the local enterprise companies, and recognise the need to continue to improve the way in which services are delivered to businesses.

The report provides good evidence of improvement in practice over the last three years although, as always, there are areas that could be improved further.

Other facts emerging from the survey include:

- all 32 councils directly fund local economic development services

- during 1998/99, expenditure by councils assisted well over 5,000

businesses

- more than 3,330 direct new jobs were created

- over 5,000 people were trained by council funding

- around 1,000 community groups were assisted and over 100 established

- 1 in 12 of all VAT registered businesses in Scotland were assisted

by council schemes during 1998/99

- levels of joint working with partners has improved considerably

since 1996

- there have been significant improvements in assessing the success of

spending but more needs to be done in this area

COSLA president Norman Murray said:

'Local government has a major contribution to make in developing Scotland's economy. Promoting prosperity and reducing poverty are key goals for all of Scotland's councils.

'We have known for some time that all councils have had a strong commitment to promoting local economic development. What we did not know was how important that commitment was in all Scotland terms. That is why we commissioned the study.

'For the first time since re-organisation the survey provides

hard evidence of the scale and scope of councils' contribution to economic development. It clearly shows that councils play an important role in promoting Scotland's overall prosperity. It fills a gap in current knowledge and will help assist informed policy development.

'COSLA has worked closely with the enterprise network to encourage

partnership working and I am pleased to acknowledge the support given by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise who helped to fund this study.

'The report also highlights a number of areas where there is room for further improvement. For example, achieving the full potential of partnership through more joined up working and better evaluation of the outcomes of council spending. Weare already developing

initiatives, with partners, in these areas.'

NOTES

1. EKOS Limited, economic consultants, were commissioned by the

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), with the support of

Scottish Enterprise (SE) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to carry out a review of Scottish councils' economic development activities. The key objectives of the research were to detail the scale and breadth of councils' involvement in economic development as well as review joint-working arrangements and assess monitoring and evaluation practice. The conduct of the study was overseen by a steering group comprising representatives of COSLA, HIE and SE.

2. For the purposes of this study, coverage was restricted to those

activities which are generally regarded as 'direct' economic development, namely business competitiveness, physical business infrastructure, training and human resource development, tourism, and economic inclusion/community economic development. It is recognised that a number of other areas of council intervention also contribute indirectly to improving local economies. These include infrastructure provision, leisure and recreation, trading standards, environmental health and other regulatory services. In order to ensure consistency, such indirect activities were excluded from the analysis.

3. The study method comprised two major elements of primary research.

First, an extensive postal questionnaire was sent to all 32 councils

requesting baseline information on staffing, expenditures and outcomes. Information obtained from the postal survey was supplemented by in-depth consultations with councils representatives, using a semi-structured framework. The interviews enabled a number of themes to be explored in depth including partnership arrangements.

4. A summary of the report is available from the COSLA website at:

www.COSLA.gov.uk or full copies of the report (2 volumes) can be purchased from COSLA Public Affairs Office price£25.

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