Last week the All Party Parliamentary Group on Local Growth, Local Enterprise Partnerships and Enterprise Zones launched their latest report on LEPs and local growth strategies. As with their previous reports there’s lots of good stuff there and it’s definitely worth a read.
Even though we’ve only been live for a couple of weeks, two of the Report’s 15 recommendations mention the What Works Centre. Of course it’s encouraging that the Centre is already being talked about and is being given roles and tasks by other important players in the field. I hope this suggests a confidence in the Centre’s relevance and ability to deliver.
However, with each mention the Centre’s remit is expanding – often into areas and issues that we can’t cover. That highlights the demand from users for what we’ll do. But managing expectations and being very clear about what the Centre will and won’t be doing over the next three years is clearly going to be important too.
The two recommendations from the APPG report illustrate these issues perfectly. Recommendation 1 states that ‘The What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth should help LEPs build capacity to carry out place-based, holistic economic appraisal of potential investments and demonstrate their impact.’ This fits well with the Centre’s remit to help build the capacity of LEPs and Local Authorities to both understand the evidence-base and to use it in their policy-making and policy-evaluating activities. On the other hand, Recommendation 15 states that ‘Where necessary LEPs should work with Government to take up their offer of changing LEP boundaries to reflect functional economic areas, while the What Works Centre could usefully assist in defining functional economic areas more practically and clearly’. This is an example of a request for involvement that stretches beyond the remit of the What Works Centre.
That’s not to say we disagree with the sentiment of the recommendation. I’m sure there are some LEPs that sooner or later will look again at their boundaries to check they are fit for purpose. It’s simply a reflection that they don’t fall within the aims and objectives of the Centre, which are to systematically review and rank the evidence on key areas such as employment, skills, housing and transport policy to identify the most effective interventions, to ensure that robust evidence is embedded in the development of policy, that these polices are effectively evaluated, and that feedback is used to improve them.
Given the expectations that many have for the Centre already it’s very important from the start that we manage expectations. This means being very clear about what we can and can’t do given our remit and resources. So if you have something in mind that you’d like the Centre to do or get involved in please continue to check our website and twitter feed for updates and get in touch. We’re more than happy to have a chat.