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  • Writer's pictureMike Spicer

The case for revisiting local development strategies ahead of the UK General Election

Updated: 3 days ago

As places across the UK prepare for potential shifts in national policy direction, proactively revisiting local economic strategies has become increasingly important. In their May 2024 Espresso Shot LEDC episode, David and Mike explore the value local leadership teams can gain from refreshing their strategic approaches ahead of the next UK General Election.

Woman sketching strategy diagram on transparent board

The age-old strategy divide in local economic development: passive vs proactive

In the episode, we argue that it is possible to sort subnational economic development teams into two schools of thought on strategy. Some take a passive ‘wait and see’ stance, going with the flow of national policy and funding mechanisms. In England, they know that the half-life of a UK economic development policy is typically shorter than the local election cycle, and would rather wait to see what they need to do to fit in with the policy and funding demands of the day. In this worldview, strategy is about demonstrating alignment.

Others have a more proactive mindset – updating plans on their terms, and when changes in their broader social, economic, and environmental context demand it. They see strategy as an organising principle for long-term investments and corporate decisions. They know that every major development in local economic policy and devolution originated in local pilots that broke the mould of existing approaches.

Now is the time for revisiting local development strategies

David and I are firmly in Camp Proactive. Regularly engaging local stakeholders and keeping strategies up to date allows places to quickly mobilise and pivot their plans should policy priorities or funding contexts alter. Having fresh discussions also builds relationships and community buy-in that can support areas during transitionary periods.

Beyond simply updating strategies, we stress in the episode the need for scenario and contingency planning frameworks. The current climate of disruption demands local leadership teams plan flexibly for different outcomes. Developing multi-tier proposals that clearly outline desired system changes, provides a structure for constructively managing discussions with incoming administrations at the local, regional or UK levels.

The best local strategies will shape UK policy on devolution, will likely be up for grabs in late 2024

As devolution debates continue, economic development teams may find new opportunities to shape agendas from below. For those with policy experience, now is the time to leverage local knowledge and ambitions in discussions around implementing industrial and local government strategies. Proactively participating in policy development processes could strengthen local areas' positions in what is likely to be a change year for UK policy, with a General Election expected within 6 months.


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