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Paper 7 - 4 June 2000 Meeting

BRIEFING ON LGA ECONOMIC REGENERATION COMMITTEE PRIORITIES 1998/99

Introduction

Several of the LGA's eight policy priorities for 1998/99 (better local government, social exclusion, New Commitment to Regeneration, education role, childcare and early years development, healthy communities, integrated transport and the futures agenda for local government) reflect the importance of regeneration within local authorities. There are particularly clear links between the social exclusion agenda and the New Commitment to Regeneration, but there are also links with the integrated transport agenda. Welfare to Work is now no longer an LGA policy priority but work continues to ensure that the agenda is taken forward, particularly in developing the role of local government as employer under the New Deal.

Themes

The Committee has a number of priorities, which have been grouped together in six themes:

Theme 1 - Regional and Local Competitiveness

Theme 2 - Regeneration of Local Communities

Theme 3 - Welfare to Work/New Deal for the Unemployed

Theme 4 - European Policies Regional and Employment

Theme 5 - Contribution to Corporate and Env. & Regeneration Board Priorities

Theme 6 - Communications

Each theme is set out below, together with a brief background. Work areas and the major current activities within them, are listed under each theme below. Full details of the Committee's work priorities/programme are available on request, or via the LGA's website, http://www.lga.gov.uk/ (copy attached to November 4th 1998 Committee agenda).

THEME 1 - REGIONAL AND LOCAL COMPETITIVENESS

This policy theme encompasses national competitiveness policy including implications of the recent White Paper, the review of TECs and Business Links; regional policy including RDAs and inward investment and local business/enterprise support policy

Competitiveness White Paper

The LGA is involved in several liaison groups with DTI, DETR and DfEE officials which are discussing how the 72 commitments in December's Competitiveness White Paper 'Our Competitive Future' (available on the DTI website http://www.dti.gov.uk as is the DTI's Implementation Plan for the White Paper) are to be taken forward. Many initiatives concern policy areas such as business support and RDAs which are covered below.

Regional Development Agencies

With the passage of the RDA Act in November and appointment of chief executives and board members in December, the attention has moved onto operational guidance for RDAs prior to their coming into operation on 1 April. Draft Statutory guidance on RDA Regional Strategies was issued in October for consultation. The LGA responded to this and also draft policy guidance on sustainable development, rural issues and skills and training. The House of Commons Environment Sub-Committee also announced an inquiry into RDAs in December. The LGA submitted a written memorandum to the inquiry and gave oral evidence on 9 March.

The key points of the LGA's case on the strategies guidance and to the Environment Sub-Committee inquiry are that:

the roles of RDAs and Government Offices in relation to ERDF funds should be clarified;

RDAs should be required to work within shared objectives for the region;

the role of regional chambers in relation to RDAs should be strengthened;

greater coherence is required between Regional Planning Guidance and RDAs' Regional Strategies

The LGA held a very useful meeting with local authority RDA board members in January, and agreed to provide regular briefings to these members on regional policy issues. A meeting with the DETR minister Richard Caborn was held on 22 February and with some RDA chief executives on 18 March.

The LGA is hoping to produce a regular 'Local Government briefing' of selected local government issues for RDA Board members - the first edition is due in June.

Review of TECs/Life long Learning

The LGA submitted a response to the review of TECs begun by DfEE in July 1998 and held a meeting with the minister responsible, George Mudie, in January. On 10 March the Government announced the results of the review which included some operational changes to TECs with a wider review to now take place on post 16 education and training, funding and organisational arrangements. Many of the points raised by the LGA in its response have been addressed in the review, including a lower level of output related funding and greater partnership working. However, the issue of accountability of TECs to their communities has not been adequately addressed and the flexibility of TEC to move funds between blocks has been reduced to "around 7%". The LGA has written to all member authorities on the review requesting comments. It has also requested a meeting with the Secretary of State for Education to discuss the review and has arranged to meet with national partner organisations over the next few weeks.

Business Support - Small Business Service

On 10 March the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced that a new Small Business Service is to be established. The service, headed by a new 'high profile' chief executive, will administer a 100 million enterprise budget and also take over part of the Cabinet Office's Better Regulation Unit. Given that the new service will most likely be given responsibility for improving the quality and coherence of business support, it will have a major impact on the future role of TECs as a key partner in Business Links. The DTI is due to issue a consultation paper on the new service during April. It is now likely that the results of the review of the branding of Business Links will be absorbed into the general review of the quality and coherence of business support which will be carried out by the new service.

Business Start Ups

The Competitiveness White Paper includes a target of providing business support for 10,000 new start ups per year over the next three years. A budget of 20 million over this period has been allocated to support this work. The LGA has been participating in a DTI working group on implementing the target and on how the funds to facilitate it should be allocated.

THEME 2 - REGENERATION OF LOCAL COMMUNITIES

The key policy initiative within this theme is the LGA's New Commitment to Regeneration - a means of making better use of existing mainstream funds to implement locally agreed regeneration strategies. The theme also includes contribution to Government regeneration initiatives such as SRB Challenge Fund and New Deal for Communities.

Regeneration

LGA progress on New Commitment to Regeneration

The Central/Local Partnership on 16 July 1998 agreed to support twenty-two pathfinders. Meetings of the twenty-two Phase One pathfinders took place in September in Nottingham and London. As a result of these meetings, the LGA has now produced a leaflet as a simple guide clearly outlining the principles of the New Commitment, which has been circulated widely. The New Commitment National Development Group met at the end of January, primarily to discuss the first tranche of freedoms/flexibilities that have been identified by pathfinders. A government inter-departmental group, considering "joined up" and neighbourhood initiatives, met in early February to consider the freedoms and flexibilities identified by the pathfinders.

The Phase One pathfinders met in early February to network, swap experiences, discuss common issues and talk about how their comprehensive regeneration strategies/action plans are developing. A meeting for the Phase Two pathfinders will be arranged soon. Phase One pathfinders are also setting up their own networks on a regional basis and a network of community groups and voluntary organisations has been set up across pathfinders.

New Commitment to Regeneration - communications

It is intended that the first national conference on the New Commitment will be held in June when there should be significant information flowing from the pathfinders to share with all local authorities and national partner organisations. The New Commitment also now has its own website on the LGA corporate website with information about all the pathfinders and notes/papers that the LGA has produced. Phase Two pathfinders, (those who are interested in pursuing the New Commitment approach) will also be encouraged to submit details about their strategies which can also be placed on this website.

National monitoring and evaluation of pathfinders

The contractors to undertake the national monitoring and evaluation for the pathfinders have recently been appointed; Michael Parkinson, Brian Robson, Manchester University and Tony Travers, LSE. This work started on 1 April when the majority of pathfinders were due to have their comprehensive regeneration strategies in place. The monitoring will take place over a two year period, jointly funded by the LGA, DETR and Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Community Enterprise

Findings of joint research on credit unions

The findings of a joint project by Liverpool John Moores University, English Community Enterprise Partnership, the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd (ABCUL) and the Co-operative Bank, supported by both the LGA and the LGMB, were announced at a conference on 8 December 1998. The project has asked fundamental questions about the state of the credit union movement, attempting to answer what makes some credit unions successful and leaves others struggling to cope. The project included a short questionnaire about credit unions, circulated to local authorities by the LGA in October 1998 with the aim of pulling together their experience of local authority credit unions.

Production of guidance on credit union development within local authorities

The LGA has been asked to support and become further involved in the campaign to promote credit unions within local authorities and to reform the legislation covering such enterprises. The LGA will shortly be publishing credit union guidance notes for local authorities which will include a checklist of elements to consider when establishing a sustainable credit union. It is also hoped that a best practice seminar on credit unions will be held in the Autumn.

THEME 3 - WELFARE TO WORK

Welfare to Work is now no longer an LGA corporate priority but the area still has considerable importance and clear links to current priorities.

Promote take up by local authorities of the employer option

The issue of local authority performance as employers under the New Deal is currently a key area. Over the last few months, there have been some criticisms of the relatively "poor" performance by local authorities as New Deal employers. A report ("Joining Up") published last Autumn by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies was critical of the public sector's performance generally, in this respect.

However, although take-up of the employer option by authorities was generally slow during the early days of the New Deal (for a variety of reasons), there is recent evidence that authorities' involvement is increasing significantly. The results of the latest "L 42" survey carried out by the IDA (formerly LGMB) show that over 50 local authorities have between them 445 young people employed under the New Deal. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that there are at least a further 10 which are employing between them a total of over 100 New Deal participants. Some local authorities are committed to take on large numbers of young people. Knowsley MBC, for example, have around 140 New Dealers.

Some of the current activities to increase the take up of New Deal, being taken forward by the LGA, IDA and the Employment Service (Large Organisations Unit) include:

Authorities are being asked through an LGA circular (sent 1 April 1999) to indicate their commitment as employers under the New Deal, and advised of proposed LGA/IDA action to offer further assistance/support. Results are currently being compiled.

A New Deal Update has been inserted in the spring edition of IDA publication 'Human Resources Link', including an article drafted jointly by IDA and the Employment Service Large Organisations Unit. The Update provides a number of case studies of local authorities which have already taken on significant numbers under New Deal.

The LGA has contacted other major public sector employers with the aim of raising the profile of the "employer" issue, explaining what the LGA/IDA/local authorities are doing giving examples of best practice, inviting their views/experiences. A meeting of public sector employer representative bodies will be held on 18 June, hosted by the LGA, with a view to increasing participation in this area under New Deal.

The LGA and IDA are working with the ES's Large Organisations Unit to contact local authorities in the North West (being an area of high unemployment where, generally, local authorities are active as New Deal employers) with the aim of promoting good practice, from local authorities such as Knowsley and Liverpool. It is hoped that this good practice can be replicated elsewhere over the course of the year. The extent of IDA involvement (which will be crucial) is likely to be dependent on available funding.

THEME 4 - EUROPEAN REGIONAL AND EMPLOYMENT POLICY

There is considerable activity underway in trying to lobby on the current reform of the European Structural Funds, the outcome of which will have immense implications for the amount of funds available from Europe for local authority regeneration activities.

Structural Fund Reform

Agreement on the Agenda 2000 package was reached at the Berlin Summit held on 24/25 March. The overall budget has been set at Euro 213 billion with the overall level going to structural funds as Euro 195 billion. The UK has gained three new Objective 1 areas: South Yorkshire, Cornwall and West Wales, although the Highlands and Islands have lost this status. Under Objective 2 the proposals for using national prosperity and structural problems as indicators of need have been integrated into the criteria but regional prosperity will also be an indicator and the emphasis is still on employment statistics. Objective 2 areas amount to 18% of community population and will be broken down at a community level into industrial (10%), rural (5%) and fisheries (1%).

THEME 5 - CONTRIBUTION TO E&R BOARD/CROSS CUTTING INITIATIVES

Policy issues covered within the Environment and Regeneration field (of which Economic Regeneration is one) are considered in the broadest terms by the Economic Regeneration Committee. This structure has enabled the Committee, through its representation on the Board and corporate/member task groups, to influence policies developed by other committees.

Contribution to the work of the E&R Board on Environmental Taxation

An adviser to the ER Committee, Professor Peter Roberts of Dundee University has carried out a study on environmental taxation which sets out different potential approaches to taxation and other instruments, includes case studies and highlights the implications for local government. The subject is due to be discussed at an LGA conference to be held on Monday 22 February.

Work towards sustainable economic regeneration

In conjunction with the LGMB, the LGA hosted a workshop on sustainable economic regeneration (one day) on 23 February, primarily aimed at relevant LGA advisers to discuss taking forward a piece of work on sustainable economic regeneration. The workshop was facilitated by Ben Tuxworth, Forum for the Future and was well attended. A number of suggestions for potential work were raised including the development of Performance Measures to show progress towards sustainability in economic regeneration and development of a training course on greening economic development aimed at economic development officers. The feasibility of these ideas, and others, were discussed at a IDA/LGA officer meeting in late April and it was agreed that a review of research in the area, including a survey of good local authority practice in sustainable economic regeneration, should be carried out. Plans are underway to progress this.

Production of guidance on benchmarking and performance measurement within the context of Best Value

The LGA has convened two meetings of best value pilot authorities who are focusing on economic development as a service area. The Association is also represented on the steering group for an Audit Commission Study on economic regeneration, reporting in the Autumn, which will inform best value guidance in this area. As part of work on best value and economic regeneration the Association is having discussions with Enterprise Plc on progressing a joint project to produce performance measures in this area.

Contribution to the work of the Board and Planning and Transport Committees from an economic regeneration perspective

The Economic Regeneration Committee has been asked by the Environment and Regeneration Board to co-ordinate the work of the service committees under the Board on regions. Work to date has focused on the links between regional strategies such as Regional Planing Guidance and RDA regional strategies through the use of integrated regional frameworks examples of which are being developed in regions such as the East Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside.

Implications of the proposed New Duty for all local authorities to pursue the economic social and environmental well-being of their areas.

The LGA is currently considering the implications/opportunities of the proposed New Deal for each service area and developing arguments and examples to support the LGA's case for inclusion of the New Duty in the forthcoming Local Government Bill on political leadership and ethics. Following a recent internal LGA meeting, it has been proposed that several economic regeneration advisers should be involved in a brainstorming session, discussing the New Duty and issues relating to existing economic development powers, relationship to the RDAs etc.

THEME 6 - COMMUNICATIONS

The effective communication of policies endorsed by the Committee is an important element of.the LGA's lobbying role. Work is also undertaken to improve communications between staff, elected members, advisers and local authorities.

Annual economic regeneration conference

The annual LGA economic regeneration conference was held last year from 16-18 November in Portsmouth, with the theme of 'Regenerating local communities'. The conference was generally very well received by delegates. It is expected that the 1999 conference will be held in Norfolk from 29 November to 1 December 1999 - details of the programme, venue and theme are currently under discussion.

Dialogue

Advisers - Economic Regeneration Committee advisers meet regularly to discuss policy issues and recent meetings have focused on improving communications. At the last meeting, advisers asked officers to set up email contact with and between them - this has now been done. Smaller groups of advisers are regularly asked to contribute to individual policy areas.

Others - The Economic Regeneration Committee now has its own committee web pages. Elected members can access the pages on the LGA's corporate website (see web address at the beginning of this briefing) where a full menu of agendas, digests, membership lists, advisers, events and policy lists are available, together with links to other sites.

Last update: 11/10/2000
Author: Nick Goulder, Policy Manager

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