John Healey, Local Government Minister, has called for the retail sector and local authorities to work more closely to bring investment to deprived areas. The benefits of collaboration are that local authorities can improve the lives of their residents by tapping into the retail potential in their areas and provide an entry point to employment. At the same time, deprived areas offer commercial opportunities for retailers to fill a gap in the market.
A new ‘how to’ guide shows that strong local partnerships between the public and private sectors are crucial to success. The guide highlights the important role the retail and property sector can play as catalysts for regeneration, as well as its ability to bring direct benefits to local businesses and to counter deprivation and social exclusion.
The guide is based on the outcomes of pilot projects that looked at how best to stimulate private sector investment in areas of deprivation. It quotes an example of a successful project in Oldham, where a partnership between the local authority and Tesco led to the opening of a new store, creating around 400 jobs, many of which went to the long term unemployed.
Communities and Local Government plan to launch a series of regional workshops for practitioners to spread the lessons learnt from the pilot projects.
A new European Social Fund programme has been launched with an investment of 2 billion pounds of ESF funding over the next 7 years. This will be matched to 2 billion pounds of national funding. Around 160,000 employees will gain basic skills and 175,000 will gain qualifications. Skills training will target people who are currently least likely to receive training, such as those without level 2 qualifications, and part-time women workers. Programmes will also tackle regional skills needs, and train managers and workers in small firms.