LED Confidential’s first episode of 2023 is now live! The podcast, jointly hosted by Mike Spicer from PolicyDepartment, and David Marlow from Third Life Economics, lifts the lid on those intractable and enduring challenges facing those of us working in and on local economic development and placemaking today.
We are introducing a major change for 2023 – a monthly ‘what’s new in LED and placemaking review?” which will augment the return of our monthly thematic episodes with an expert guest.
So what are our reflections on January 2023, and why are they important for our sector, policy makers, and local leadership teams? Let us whet your listening appetite with five teasers…
First we consider how the Levelling Up Fund Round Two (LUFR2) announcements have landed (spoiler alert – not very well), and wonder whether this is the beginning of the end for small, short-term, nationally micro-managed challenge funding? If LUFR2 is going to be a tipping point, we need to be clear whether our arguments are for a smaller number of much larger longer-term funding pots or whether the big bang change has to be an end to competitions altogether and a new single pot system.
The answer to this issue is to a large extent dependent, especially in England, on our second discussion point – the future of devolution. Our episode touched on both the proposed North East agreement and the promise of Greater Manchester and West Midlands ‘trailblazers’ to come. Amongst a number of points, we really ought to take stock of what has been learnt from devo agreements from the city deals of the early 2010s to the Combined Authority agreements of the last five or six years. Where is the honest informed discussion on what has gone well and less well – in both design and implementation?
The influence of the growing cohort of elected mayors can be at the forefront of redefining better devolution in the mid-2020s and beyond. Our third discussion point reflected on their profile at the Convention of the North. They were absolutely clear and united about moving away from the ‘begging bowl mentality’ of challenge funding. But genuine fiscal devolution remains a dog that isn’t barking very loudly in the UK. Surely, this is an area of work that merits serious attention going forward?
Fourthly, we mulled over the ambiguous signals on economic clusters coming out of both Gove (and therefore Government) at the Convention of the North, and arguably from Labour in Gordon Brown’s recent ‘New Britain’ report. Gove, perhaps surprisingly, seemed to suggest scepticism about Government role in supporting place-based economic clusters, whilst ‘New Britain’ sometimes seems to suggest that every place has clusters that should be empowered and enabled. Where might the balance lie between effectively zero and over 100 clusters meriting public policy strategic support. Economic clusters lie in the overlaps between LED and placemaking and can be of global, national, regional and/or local significance. We suggest returning to this issue in a future thematic episode.
Finally, both of us reviewed some of the reading we had found particularly stimulating in January – from the World Economic Forum Global Risk Register, to Centre for Cities 2023 Cities Outlook, and the Enterprise Research Centre's SME Research Showcase. We hope a brief overview of what is influencing us is a helpful part of the monthly review.
But what do you think? The current affairs review will work so much better if it is informed by what types of news you most want us to discuss; if it starts or contributes to ongoing important debates in our sector; and mostly if it is shaped by the listener and motivates you to engage further.
We welcome suggestions on what LEDC should do next and how you wish to contribute…over to you!