Headlines: July 4th, 2008

Councils need to arrive at their own strategies for the economic development of their areas, according to a new report from the New Local Government Network. “Trading Places” looks afresh at the influence authorities have on business and enterprise, and the link between policy and prosperity at a time when they are facing new responsibilities for economic development.

The report’s author, Matthew Clifton, believes there should be new ways of assessing an area’s economic strengths and weaknesses. This would then point council leaders and chief executives towards the priorities for improvement. He argues that the ‘competitive advantage’ of one area can differ markedly from another, so councils need to devise their own distinct strategies.

The report uses real case studies to analyse the building blocks that are necessary for growth and regeneration. It focuses particularly on knowledge-based service companies. The report makes more than 20 recommendations for local and central government, including making a share of income tax available as a local government grant and a 4p top rate for Supplementary Business Rates.

It also calls for the devolution of responsibility for transport and for pre and post 19 skills and the introduction of tax relief on the cost of moving in connection with employment, The report, which is supported by BT and Yorkshire Forward, argues that if Government aspirations for regional economic convergence are to be fulfilled they need to be converted into tangible, tailored policies which are relevant from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.

The NLGN believes the framework set out in “Trading Places” will help council leaders and senior officers to develop strategies to galvanise and lead economic development.