RSN EDO Meeting - Thursday 21st April 2016

Civil War Centre: Newark, Notts
The meeting covered the following areas:
What does economic development mean now...
  • - Fighting for resources and diminishing resources - competition for resources as LAs, VCS and others participate in the same or similar activities.
  • - Working in partnership - the role of LEPs, HE
  • - Making the most of assets.
  • - Local Authorities as 'enabling' and 'the glue' for economic development (bringing together strategy with practice on the ground to maximise benefits locally).
  • - Place shaping - changing perceptions about local areas to foster positive connections.
  • - Universities moving away from liberal institutions doing ED research for its own sake into being financially universities no longer in the public sector (international reputation, tuition fees, charging out services for cost). Usefulness to local economy is still there but not for research but the economic benefits we bring from being in a place.
  • - Universities do offer different access to funding (e.g. Research Councils UK, European).
  • - Pulling together regeneration strategies and plans with projects implemented/funded via universities is still a worthwhile area of joint work.
  • - Businesses often see ED as 'done to us' rather than as enabling. ED plans need to take on board the views of the private sector and how this sector is changing. There are rural businesses that trade as something in the rural community and others that base themselves in a rural place and their needs are very different.
  • - Broadband and mobile phone connectivity. This is the 4th utility. ED needs to pick up on this need. But there are different standards of speed and provider etc. Still crucial to business development.
  • - Concern in terms of public ED policy that we will focus on the big wins and low hanging fruit - that leaves rural areas out in the cold.
  • - There is generally a lack of recognition that VCS has a part to play in ED – however it is often effective in unlocking areas such as local knowledge, volunteers.
  • - The VCS sector is sometimes hampered by an unwillingness to change within sectors and embrace new ways of working.
  • - LAs are increasingly recognising social enterprises and help them to become more enterprising and reduce grant reliance. Seeing social enterprises as businesses.
  • - Funding and sustainability: VCS organisation funded hand to mouth which limits their ability to think strategically over 3, 5 years - you get mission drift to earn money. Lack of continuity.
  • - VCS organisation's tend to work with the LA community development team rather than the ED team in some places. Their role in economic development could be explored further.
  • - VCS has a role in targeted areas. People furthest away from the labour market need huge public intervention - VCS has a role to play in providing the support to get them from unemployment to employment.
  • - One key role arising from continuing to invest in the VCS sector is that it builds the capacity of communities and delivers cost effective preventive outcomes, reducing costs overall. The nesta funded Cities of Service programme is a good example of this.

Rural economic development
  • - ED is naturally urban centric. Often rural ED is not output rich and smaller in its size and scale. This could be because of the way we measure it (e.g. Tourism - invest in large visitor facilities rather than small business start up units in a rural area: STEAM data to calculate visitor impact and help decision making).
  • - Understanding rural urban connectivities around where people live and work is an important part of ensuring we fully think through the impact of investing in rural economies.
  • - Growth should not be an unalloyed objective in its own right - unequal distribution of wealth, environmental deprivation etc. Strategies for the development of rural areas can be about pursuing quality of life not just growth.
  • - In many cases (taking a long perspective) the planning system has not helped the development of rural communities in England.
  • - Rural economies distorted through CAP, by far the largest sector intervention and driving a perception that agriculture = rural.
  • - Neighbourhood Planning – has an important role to play in stimulating interest in and responses to economic development in rural communities.
  • - Relationship between ED and housing is important - in many rural areas with small workforces this means bringing people in (and building more houses for them) or shrinking the economy. Extension of right to buy to Housing Associations will have a major negative impact in this context.
  • - There is an argument that successful economic development at the micro level, if planned extensively enough, can deliver sustainable development through many small businesses in a way which may be more robust than investing in a few larger businsses.

  • - LEPs are urban orientated even in rural shires. Most have strategies which are sectoral rather than spatial. Few have any interest in micro level investments to grow rural businesses. North Yorks does innovatively buck that trend.
  • - Will LEPs survive going forward amid combined authorities? Retention of business rates and less funding coming down from Government. Greater Manchester combined authority has weakened the LEP as the power is with the authorities.
  • - NAO report on LEPs in March 2016 - unclear fit with combined authorities and LEPs in the devolution landscape.
  • - 39 LEPs - too many / Government taken by surprise as expected 8-12? Private sector sounding board rather than influencing policy. LEPs have no statute or powers - they are a vehicle for passing money through. National Programmes being managed through 38 allocations.
  • - Are we making an assumption that combined authorities will go ahead? Will they cover all areas? Will rural areas be peripheral in this?
  • - Northern powerhouse and Midlands engine – brands jury out on their likely impact and substance.
  • - Who is going to worry about interventions in rural against all this talk of devolution, big sectors, cities? Not straightforwardly local authorities there is a changing landscape for them with the ground still shifting - (how many authorities will be around in 20 years time and capacity and less people on the ground).
  • - Retention of business rates will lead to a very patchy distribution of ED capacity.
  • - Where do you put the ED resource going forward? A return on investment driven approach is increasingly likely to come to the fore. Tourism and market towns are both important rural drivers – although traditionally seen from a national perspective as unattractive areas for investment.
  • - Mainstreaming is still prevalent with no specific focus on rural in many approaches to ED. Rural areas already neglected but thinking being pushed to larger scale (growth, combined authorities).
  • - There is another way which involves interlocked local development that circulates money in the local economy (Northumberland CC procurement looked at by NEF - 10% shift in procurement to local products would circulate £34 million in local economy; local currencies - Totnes, Bristol also has a local multiplier effect). Perhaps time to see transition type activities as more important and credible – local action is an area where Districts especially can have an impact.
  • - Principles behind sustainable development are great but people hijack it for their own purposes (a recent example being the use of the term in the form of a farming concept - sustainable intensification – this is surely an oxymoron!!!).
  • - LEADER should have a sustainable local procurement policy built in to it focusing on local suppliers..
  • - The one constant is Market forces – in many cases they drive adaptation rather than presaging "the end of the world" doom mongering about the end of the high street is a good example. High Streets have changed but they have remained very resilient.
  • - Measuring benefit is increasingly important going forward - local multiplier effects are a good way of - demonstrating impact to Members.
  • - Local authority economic development in rural places should be about quality of life not just growth and town centres can do that and create a healthy local economy as a result.
  • - RCCs are still there - sustainable resilient players to support rural communities.
  • - Public policy nationally driven which can make local implementation difficult. No flexible local interpretation or innovation. We need to take a few risks and see how things work. E.g. Highlands and Islands enterprise has a remit to take risks and have a social purpose.

  • - The jury is out...
  • - Big impact on farming sector through CAP.
  • - Depends on what happens and the negotiation that has to take place.
  • - A marginalised and disintegrated UK?
  • - Could impact on the flow of migrant labour which is vital to some rural land based businesses
  • - Will money paid into Europe be put into rural programmes if we come out?
  • - A view in some quarters that a reduction in farming support would be good for rural areas.
  • - From an ED perspective many EU programmes are delivered in a way which is sensitive to rural. If we leave will things in terms of ED policy become yet more "urban centric?"


James Makinson Sander – East Lindsey DC
Liz Price, Chris Phelan, Gary Bosworth – University of Lincoln
Libby Kingsley – Rutland County Council
Jes Holmes – Ryedale DC
Nigel Burch/Jayne Shale – S Holland DC
Sharn Matthews – E Northants DC
Nicola McCoy-Brown – Notts CC
Sonia Coleman – Bolsover DC
Robert Wilkinson – Bassetlaw DC
Frank Horsley – Derbyshire CC
Andy Dean – RSN
Nigel Curry – CCRI/University of Lincoln
Ivan Annibal – RSN
Jessica Sellick – RSN
Martin Traynor – Leicestershire and Rutland RCC


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.