The new normals: local economic recovery

Economic recovery planning must start at the local level

writes Lisa McCance.

COVID-19 is expected to deliver one of the greatest economic shocks of our lifetime, with unprecedented levels of unemployment, business closure and a contraction of our economy not experienced in recorded history. It does however, present an opportunity to rebuild the economy, and address some of the long-standing challenges faced by local communities to level up our society. This recovery must build on existing strengths and areas of innovation, rather than be at the expense of them. Our recent work with councils and LEPs has demonstrated the challenges of addressing inclusive growth, responded to the need for clean growth, and addressed system-wide thinking of the wider determinants of health.

Moving on from the immediate COVID-19 challenges of administering government grants, issuing rate relief and dealing with an unprecedented dialogue with LEP Growth Hubs and council economy and skills teams, the transition needs to find time to reflect on future visions, strategies and plans. Collecting learning in an integrated way, and working together across places, communities and business will provide a strong evidence base to drive recovery. Furthermore, the response so far has demonstrated how new relationships are being forged across public, private and third sectors and how innovation has been at the forefront of local and national need. In transitioning to a new normal,the key will be to capitalise on this period of activity to support new business processes, products and services while addressing the UK’s grand challenges.

Multiple layers of recovery plans are starting to be developed – across local and combined authorities, counties and LEPs. These plans must have a shared ambition for economic recovery and be coordinated to support this core direction of focus while ensuring resource and investment is not too thinly spread. They must be able to harness the innovation around the new normal. They must also be integrated with other plans across health, communities and the economy to deliver the greatest outcomes.

In our work over the last couple of months, we are asking clients at LEPs, councils and government departments a set of key questions such as:

  • Does your current vision, corporate strategy or Local Industrial Strategy still deliver against plans for economic recovery in the transition and beyond?
  • How do current and proposed plans address the needs of the economy during the transition phase and in the long-term?
  • Are emerging multi-layered plans supporting central themes for economic recovery and are they being coordinated effectively with strong leadership?
  • Does your evidence base reflect the challenges and opportunities arising from a predicted spike in unemployment and business closure? What more can be done to capitalise on recent business engagement and local intelligence?

How can we help

Our recent support to councils and LEPs has considered what is key in answering the questions listed above. Through our work, we are able to:

  • Develop the core principles by which the recovery can be shaped – an opportunity to invest in the skills and employment opportunities facing particular communities, ensuring good jobs are at the heart of economic recovery and that the industry base can continue to support output recovery.
  • Develop or update an evidence base from the latest available data that can sit alongside existing strategic documents – a baseline that can be alert to the most current data and consider key decisions around priorities and investment.
  • Work with partners to consider the core asks, offers and required powers to build on local opportunities i.e. better use of the apprenticeships levy, developing social value, considering local commissioning etc.
  • Engage with partners and communities to refresh partnership arrangements i.e. Business Improvement Districts, Universities, business support organisations etc.

Read the other essays in our ‘new normals’ series here.

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