Will Boris succeed in getting his election now? Clearly some feel that the electioneering has been underway for some time!
Away from current politics, I think it’s essential that there is a more joined up strategy for our town centres. With a government focus on commercialisation, the public sector will increasingly intervene as the private sector can’t always deliver risk-appropriate returns for stand-alone developments, and in the repurposing of our town centres. But are our public sector stakeholders – health, education, crime, housing, economic development – using the best metrics to value investment in place? The recent decision to increase Local Authority Lending (PWLB) rates on new loans seems to be at odds with the desire to localise regeneration decision making effecting new homes, wellbeing, place making and job creation.
It’s clear collaboration is the key to delivering holistic solutions in response to these fast-moving changes. For this to work though, we need to speak the same language, or we just won’t agree on what ‘good’ looks like. If there is a disconnect, many towns simply won’t be able to deliver long-term innovative solutions to enhance communities. We all know that ‘do nothing’ remains the easiest option in uncertain times. But now is the time to embrace these opportunities for change in a pragmatic way. We need to bring together stakeholders, offer a new, accountable way to address calls for greater social investment, and embrace the need for a new valuation approach to purposeful town centre decision-making.
So post the election, will the new Government take a step back and think about being more joined up? Or continue with the decisions already made on the towns that require funding support. It just all feels too little to deal with the scale of the issue effecting our town centres.
Nigel Wilcox, executive director of Institute for Economic Development, told LGC the criteria used was “pretty ropey” and that the Towns Fund showed there is “not really any strategic long term view” from government.