Recovery and reset: how can we create a confident and collaborative place?

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Recovery and reset: how can we create a confident and collaborative place?


In June we hosted a very thought-provoking webinar with the Institute of Economic Development with Martin Reeves, CEO of Coventry City Council; Tom Stannard, Corporate Director – Regeneration and Economic Growth, Wakefield Council; Corinne Day, Programme Director, Newhaven Enterprise Zone and David Fletcher, Assistant Director – Economic Development, Hampshire County Council. Apart from their contributions there was a lively Q&A session and we wanted to share some of the insights with you.

David highlighted that whilst there had been and continued to be a fantastic response to the pandemic this had produced ‘a need to be seen to be doing something’ approach in some places. He made the point there was a barrage of funding pots, demand for shovel-ready projects etc. which were helpful but didn’t address the foundations of the economy. It was still vital to have a long-term economic view and a focused support for the global businesses across the UK who, as the wealth creators, put money in people’s pockets.

Corinne hoped the crisis had created headspace, openness and a willingness to do things differently and that by following a stakeholder and shared view of the future for a place there was an opportunity to push past procrastination. It was imperative to match policy and delivery with that future-place narrative stakeholders aspired to. There is a real need to accelerate ‘let’s try it’, to show by doing, collaborating to deliver and starting from a position of ‘yes’ to what matters locally.

As Tom pointed out, the housing market is a critical barometer of recovery and it will need intervention in various ways to become buoyant again. Alongside this, job creation will be vital and there needs to be support for skills development, but this can’t just be for young people – it needs to be an ‘all ages’ approach to maximise the potential of opportunities such as a digitally orientated economy. Devolution could also be a catalyst for doing things differently, building on the new regard for the public sector and front-line workers at a local level so local solutions can really come to the fore.

From Martin’s perspective more power must be devolved so reset and recovery can be inspired and delivered by fantastic local people. Communities will need emblems of hope, a view of the future given how confidence levels have been so eroded. As there will be less major investment places need to focus on what they have, the assets that make them special, how they are distinct, and to package this in an authentic narrative. The future will be messier, greyer, fuzzier than ever before and this will require complementary approaches; will collaborations endure post crisis?

And a few other points:

  • There needs to be investment in the place beyond GVA and into well-being, healthy living, feeling part of a community; in other words, social value added
  • Culture is an emblem for the future and you can’t dis-invest in one of the principal things that connects people (especially the young) with their place
  • If people across communities are going to enjoy and be part of a cultural experience they have to be earning so they can be mobilised locally
  • There shouldn’t be a competition between urban and rural, one isn’t bad and the other good, this is about connecting assets and how both work together
  • Lack of finance must not be an excuse for lack of ambition

It was thoughtful, provocative, challenging and honest.

 

John Till, Director

8th July 2020

 

If you missed the session ‘live’ then you can catch up and watch the recording here