Helping places through a harder tier system

By Darryl Eyers | 08 December 2020

As the economic impacts of lockdowns become ever clearer and with the introduction of a harder tier system in December, the need to provide focused support for struggling local economies is immense and pressing.

In partnership with EY, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) has produced a new report: Resolute and Resilient – Safeguarding the economy during local lockdowns, to provide an essential evidence base for place leaders and a toolkit to support local action, as we work to protect our economies.

The report comes from ADEPT’s Economic Recovery & Renewal Task Force (ERRTF), created in April. From member feedback at the time, it was obvious that the economic impact of the national lockdown was going to differ widely across the country. We are fortunate that ADEPT is a broad church, with members also drawn from local enterprise partnerships, combined authorities, sub-national transport boards and corporate partners.

We brought together two place directors, a local enterprise partnership chief and a representative each from the Local Government Association and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to form the ERRTF. We wanted to demonstrate to Government that economic recovery had to be done locally, not just at a national level, and to support our members in this endeavour. We invited EY to provide insight, rigorous analysis and a strong evidence base.

The first report produced by EY and ADEPT was developed to make an evidenced-based case for locally led recovery. It found that the effects of the national lockdown would vary significantly, that a one-size-fits-all, top-down approach would confine recovery, and that local leaders must be empowered to shape recovery in their area.

This latest report began as a response to the first local lockdown in Leicester and the emerging evidence about specific economic impact. ADEPT started to look at what learning could be found; we wanted to capture how place leaders could support an economy during a local lockdown so that we could all be more ready and prepared.

Resolute and Resilient builds on the conclusions of the April report and sets out five ‘grand challenges’, including how lockdowns reinforce existing challenges, that interventions must be locally tailored and sector-specific, and the fragility of consumer and business confidence.

Place leaders are well positioned to address these challenges through their local knowledge, ability to gather intelligence and act effectively through the partnerships that exist between them, local business and key sectors. They know where to prioritise and target interventions and can work at local, regional and national levels to advocate for their areas.

The message to Government is simple: empower and fund local authorities and let us get on with making decisions rather than constrain us with centralised control.

We are not arguing against a national approach, far from it. The furlough scheme, national investment and support for business is vital. But there must also be an equal emphasis on locally-led solutions and responses that are rooted in place.

We think the Government has been listening. As well as the national funding to those businesses that have had to close, there has also been a discretionary funding pack given to local authorities to support business in their communities. This is welcome, but we need to go further. We believe local leaders can play a key role in designing allocation criteria for levelling up funding and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Resilience and renewal are our longer-term goals.

As a reference tool, the idea behind the report is simple. It sets out the evidence to show that the economic impact of COVID-19 will vary significantly, and these are the key areas to think about to support your economy with locally-led solutions.

We provide case studies from across the UK, Europe and the US to show solutions and measures from a variety of local economies.

At the risk of showing bias, I know its value because we have used it in Staffordshire to test our strategy and delivery plan around economic recovery. I would encourage other place directors to do the same. It is a useful exercise and it is invaluable not to be starting with a blank sheet of paper.

As we come out of the national lockdown, we are returning to a tiered system that Government says will be with us until spring.

Addressing economic impacts and creating resilience will be an ongoing priority and the ERRTF will continue to respond, update and feedback information to our members. Join ADEPT and get involved.

Darryl Eyers is immediate past president of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) and chair of the Sustainable Growth Board


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