Local priorities, national plans

Last month, team members from the Hub attended Public Sector 2017 in London. While there were many different topics being discussed, the team were there to hear from representatives talking about devolution and local growth and governance.

Speakers from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Local Government Association (LGA) discussed how devolution could present opportunities for local government, and how infrastructure could be better managed at a macro level to accomplish growth and productivity targets.

More to be done

Devolution has been a priority topic at all levels for several years, with a wide range of actions being taken to improve opportunities for local authorities (LAs) to encourage growth within their region.

However, there is still much that can be done to improve approaches to funding and resources. For example, the panel presented the idea that Brexit may, in fact, provide the opportunity for local authorities to take more responsibility for the strategic allocation of funding and resources, drawing in other regional actors to build collective direction.

With national Government engaged in ongoing negotiations with the European Union, many ministerial departments may not have the time or the resource to dedicate to dealing with growth issues on a regional level.

Stepping up at a local level

This means that Government could benefit from allowing more latitude on a macro level for investment and decision-making regarding infrastructure, skills and education. It would also allow a more “individualised” approach to regional growth, as LAs are best placed to use these resources for the outcomes that best suit the bespoke needs of their region.

The Hub is well-placed to help advise and inform this sort of regional involvement. A key part of our work includes providing evidence- and intelligence-based support to local actors looking to prioritise strategies and investment, and ensuring that all institutions in the region are involved in the decision-making process. A part of our work includes determining, through place-based concepts, how the devolution process can best work with deployment of finances and leveraging of local resource to encourage growth.

The Hub’s involvement

Currently, we are working with key local actors across the UK – not just LEPs and universities, but increasingly LAs, combined authorities, and city regions – to scope collaborations, provide data and insight to help informed prioritisation take place.  The Government’s Science and Innovation Audit process has helped shape the early stages of this involvement, but as we continue to deepen and broaden our offer we will be looking for ever more opportunities to add value in this space.

About the author

Kim is the Digital Communications Officer for the Smart Specialisation Hub.

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