Long-Term Plan Investment
The Institute of Place Management welcomes the government’s publication of its “Long Term Plan for Towns”, which is providing new funding to support 55 towns to invest in local people’s priorities against the three key themes of ‘safety and security’, ‘high streets, heritage and regeneration’ and ‘transport and connectivity’.
The plan involves providing these 55 places with access to £20m across a ten-year period, beginning in summer 2024, overseen by a Towns Board which brings together community leaders, business people, local authority representatives and the local MP, to work collaboratively on addressing the specific needs of people in their place.
Evidence-based policy making
What is particularly pleasing to see is how the government have listened to the feedback from IPM and its members that highlighted the need to provide towns with long-term, flexible funding, overseen by a genuine partnership of local stakeholders. Delivered in this way, funding can be invested into ideas and initiatives to improve local centres that have been generated through meaningful engagement with local people.
IPM’s delivery of the government’s High Streets Task Force, has revealed a lack of collaborative working as the primary barrier to many town’s transformation. Too often, stretched local authorities work in silos, and mistrust can develop amongst wider members of the community that starts to lose faith that things can change. This policy tackles this problem head on, by ensuring that local people are tasked with helping to drive forward the change that is required in every place, with each Town Board chaired by a local business or community leader.
Building on existing support
Of the 44 places in England selected to receive this investment, 19 have already received a visit from the High Streets Task Force, and will have benefitted from an expert visit and town hall meeting to determine the barriers to change, as well as follow-up advice to begin the process of unlocking their place’s potential. We are pleased to see that these places will be able to further build on the expert support that has already been provided, and many more new towns will also benefit, as an extended High Streets Task Force will be setup to provide each selected town with bespoke, hands-on support from place-making experts.
Supporting the work of this Task Force will be a new internal Towns Taskforce established in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, reporting directly to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Levelling Up. The job of this Taskforce will be to ensure that the issues and opportunities of these towns are heard by UK Government.
When considering the selection methodology for this investment, the government have published a methodology which shows how a clear focus on need has been used. This process has involved selecting each local authority according to their ‘Levelling Up Need’, combining the metrics of skills, pay, productivity and health together to judge place performance. Following this, a town in each shortlisted local authority, with a population of between 20,000 and 100,000, has been selected based on their performance against the Index of Multiple Deprivation.
Welcome long-term funding
While this new fund is limited to just 55 places, IPM welcomes the new approach that the government is taking to provide flexible, long-term funding to places in need of levelling up.
A significant portion of the £20m endowment for each location can be used as revenue funding, allowing places to invest in people, place activation, and a variety of activity that are essential to delivering change. This detail is important and demonstrates the evolution of the place debate in politics and the media, that local capital investment and infrastructure is vital but they will not create change on their own. Many of our towns in the UK are not serving the economic, social, cultural, and environmental needs of our areas because they are not led and managed by suitably skilled and qualified people, representing a wide range of interests, working together in the interest of the place.
IPM looks forward to continuing to collaborate with selected locations through the current High Street Task Force, ensuring that they take positive steps forward to unlock their place’s unique potential.