NLGN’s report – Grow Your Own: Skills and Infrastructure for Local Economic Growth, kindly supported by BT and Kent Country Council – argues local government must seize a new role as social venture capitalists to unblock stalled developments and seed fund new jobs. NLGN urges councils to collaborate in setting up ‘Revolving Investment Funds’, which seek a commercial return from investments that drive local economic growth. By combining their borrowing power, councils can raise vitally needed finance to help make up the over £4bn drop in regional development funding since the election.
Other key recommendations in the report include:
- Devolution of 5% of the skills budget to local level to ensure that training providers have a greater incentive to meet the needs of key growth sectors in England’s towns and cities.
- Extension of the government’s current ‘City Deal’ process through a series of new ‘LEP deals’ which would give new powers over skills and infrastructure to partnerships of county and district councils.
- Councils should seed fund the creation of new Group Training Associations which will help small and medium-size enterprises club together to shape appropriate skills development.
NLGN Director Simon Parker said: “While central government is focused on deficit reduction, councils are increasingly taking on responsibility for delivering growth. Opening up a new era of social venture capitalism requires local authorities to overcome historical boundaries and collaborate across cities and shires to unlock investment. It also requires a new wave of devolution from Whitehall, with more skills money routed through LEPs to provide a hard-edged incentive for trainers to deliver the skills that matter most to local employers.”