Viewpoint: Can local authorities deliver a powerful local growth cocktail in 2016?


With George Osborne opening 2016 warning of the “dangerous cocktail of new threats from around the world”, the necessity of local authorities ensuring our local growth ‘home bases’ are in order is urgent and important. The challenge, though, is that this is far from straightforward, writes David Marlow.

My recent LGIU briefing – Local Growth Agendas – 2016-20 (LGiU members only) – outlines post-Spending Review and Local Government Financial Settlement landscapes. They are extensive and complex.

The briefing outlines twenty major policy agendas which local government needs to understand and shape to make the most of their local growth assets and opportunities – summarised below.

A checklist for local growth agendas 2016


In skills and employment, 2016-20 will see major reforms of the post-16 and adult skills systems (both of colleges and providers on the supply side, and of loans for learners on the demand side). The post-16 area reviews and introduction of the apprenticeship levy offer opportunities for transforming the delivery of local labour market skills – but the demands of transition may be acute.

Physical investment will need to be managed in the context of higher performance expectations for planning regimes, new approaches to housing supply (especially focused on starter home ownership), and proactive asset management (at a public estate as well as local authority level). Local leadership teams will also need to play into the revision of the National Infrastructure Plan with new commitments to flagship schemes like HS2 and nuclear energy.

As the national Business Growth Service closes by March 2016, new pressures will be placed on still infant local Growth Hubs. For innovation, local/regional Science and Innovation Audits will seek to shape national priorities as Research Councils and Innovate UK come together in Research UK – with a range of new (more loan-based) products.

These agendas (and there are others in the framework above) need to be delivered whilst not taking local ‘eyes off the ball’ of existing commitments – 28 city deals, 39 local growth deals, the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF2014-20) programmes, and a number of other legacy programmes from the coalition government (including Regional Growth Fund, Growing Places Fund, existing and newly announced Enterprise Zones etc).

Finally, local growth will sit alongside and within Osborne’s ‘devolution and fiscal revolutions’ – negotiating and implementing enhanced devolution (to Combined and Mayoral Authorities), and managing to-be-determined business rates localisation and council tax flexibilities schemes. All this, in a context of continuing tight public and local authority expenditure constraints.

The briefing concludes with recognition that this is an intimidating, exhaustive (and exhausting) set of agendas. It suggests local government needs to determine a framework (perhaps based on the one above) for planning and managing key agendas for their local areas. They will need to consider how far these will be individual local authority and/or collective endeavours for an intermediate tier combined authority or alternative arrangement. Then, they should put considerable flesh on the bones of the framework to realise the opportunities identified in this blog (and others not highlighted).

Osborne’s warning of the ‘dangerous cocktail’ internationally was coupled with a fear of ‘creeping complacency’ that Britain might believe the post-global recession economic job had been done.

Based on this blog, I do not think there is any risk of ‘creeping complacency’ with respect to local authorities’ leadership and management of local growth.

David Marlow is an LGiU briefing associate.

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