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Three ways economic development can help business today


What are the three ways economic development can help business today?

Collecting the bins and planning are statutory functions at most local authorities in England, economic development  (ED) function is not a statutory function.  So it is right that we ask what is the value of economic development and what contribution does it make to business growth.

This article sets out the three ways economic development can help business today.   So here we go, we hope this article contributes to the discussion about what local government can do to boost business.

  1. Bring together local agencies
    Economic development should have a focus on bringing growth and investment to the area.   As an economic development professional your role is to stay focussed on this.  In England local authorities cannot set the tone and direction for economic development by themselves.  Economic development has a collaborative attitude which recognises the uniqueness and value that other organisations can bring.  Economic growth comes through collaboration.   Central government, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Councils, Chambers of Commerce all have a part to play.   Success will only come from these agencies collaborate.

  2. Share insight
    There is such a wealth of information and data available to us.  We do not need to rely on who shouts loudest in the room, or those with fixed opinions based on personal prejudices.

    By sharing data we can bring different sources together to build a nuanced, clear picture of the current situation.   This will then lead to insights and perspectives on the problem.  For example at a recent client meeting we were able to bring new data on road traffic patterns which fundamentally changed the ways the client “framed” the problem of traffic exiting a business park.

  3. Set out and own a vision for the district
    We’ve been saving the best until last!  It is not the job of business to create and own vision for the locality.   Business look to local authorities for vision and leadership of place.   Leadership and vision is central to economic development

    So let’s get to work!



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How (not) to sell infrastructure projects

What do we mean by Infrastructure?

Infrastructure – roads, rail, sewerage, airports are often big projects which offer benefits for future generations.  But infrastructure projects also often have big implications – including big disruption for the residents who have to contend with the traffic diversions, noise and change.

OK, give me some examples…

Red Potato have been involved in the project specification for minor road changes which will offer business benefits to those most disrupted.  The projects will help make it easier for businesses to get to, and from a business park.  Why is this important?  Because it directly effects business performance.  For instance, the ability to attract high quality employees.  If potential employees are faced with choosing to sit in traffic for upwards of an hour to travel a couple of miles or take a job somewhere else; it is an easy choice. Most employees want quality of life, to be home in time to go the gym or read the bedtime story.  Not be sitting in a traffic jam.   So infrastructure projects are important and can deliver real benefits.

So what needs to change?

If infrastructure is so important, why are we so bad at demonstrating the benefits?  Too often projects are into the mechanics of delivery and they loose focus on what problems they are seeking to solve.  So here is the plea…keep the focus on the what drives the project.  Without this focus we loose sight of the project objectives and ultimately that infrastructure, roads, rail, airports must be able to show clear benefits.  And those benefits should include how communities improve not just some Treasury statistics.


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LGC Awards 2015

Why were Red Potato at the LGC Awards?

Red Potato were invited to attend the Local Government Chronicle Awards 2015 (LGC Awards 2015) with our partners Welwyn Hatfield Council.  Welwyn Hatfield Council and Red Potato were finalists in the “Community Involvement” award category.  The Council and Red Potato were recognised by the judges for delivering an innovative work experience programme.  Almost uniquely this work experience programme secured the support of schools, colleges and the local small business sector.

So did you win anything?

We didn’t win the LGC Award, which is a great shame.  But we are really proud of what has been achieved. The programme has led to young people securing jobs, lots of money has been raised for charities through hard graft by the students and there is better engagement between schools and local business.  This programme has been a great investment in the future of the local economy.  Probably most importantly, the programme has touched the lives of many young people locally.

What’s next on the awards front?

Our own awards event for the schools, businesses and charities who participated in the Welwyn Hatfield Dragons Apprentice Challenge is only two weeks away.  Therefore, in conclusion we can safely say we know how it feels to all the finalists!

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Working in Partnership with Councils

Judgement Day at the #LGCAwards: We were really happy when asked to be part of the Welwyn Hatfield Council presentation to the Local Government Chronicle Awards panel in #London.  During January the team (composed of Welwyn Hatfield Council and Red Potato staff) put in the time to prepare and rehearse our pitch to the judges.  It was great to have the support of the Welwyn Hatfield Council CEO who quizzed us hard, before approving our final presentation.   Red Potato had helped the Council engage local businesses with an innovative scheme for young people to gain experience of being an entrepreneur.  The young people gained valuable experience which will help them in their future careers and the businesses gained a useful insight into the mindset of “Millennials”, as customers and potential employees.   Red Potato has conducted initial research that shows that a typical Return on Investment for businesses who participated as a staggering 81.8%! In terms of cash that means for every £100 a local business invested in the programme, they could receive benefits worth upto £500! If you’d like to discuss how we could work with your local council and local businesses to achieve similar results do get in touch.   In the meantime we anxiously await the results of the LGC judging process….

On behalf of Red Potato we wish Welwyn Hatfield Council the best of luck, for when the final awards are announced in March.


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2014 UK local government employment “snippets”


For a number of months we have seen a steady drip feed of information on cuts in jobs at local authorities and new jobs in other private sector businesses.  To keep track of things Red Potato will provide regular updates here on this blog. It is a snapshot and not a statistical analysis!

  • All data is sourced from public sources,  thanks especially to the LGIU for their daily briefing reports
  • We’ll try to keep things up to date, but please feel free to make corrections, amends or updates
  • It is worth remembering that behind the figures are real people, whose lives will be changed for good or ill.

11 Jan 2014
Council to cut 162 jobs

North East Lincolnshire Council has said that 162 jobs are to be cut over the next financial year in order to meet government spending cuts. Council taxpayers also face a 1.9% rise in bills – the first increase in four years. Council leader Chris Shaw said an “unjust” settlement from central government has forced them to find £18m savings on top of what was already expected.
Yorkshire Post, Page: 4

15 Feb 2014
Torbay Council has approved budget cuts of £22m.
BBC News

London keeps creating jobs
A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that London’s economy is creating nearly eight jobs in the private sector for every one lost in the public sector. The report showed a 380,000-job rise in the capital’s private sector from the start of 2010 to mid-2013, or 9.3% of total employment. This contrasted with a 50,000 fall in public sector employment, or 1.2%, based on the same measure.
Evening Standard, Page: 6

18 Feb
Glasgow takes issue with figures

The FT reflects on figures from the Centre for Cities which said Glasgow had lost 7,800 private sector and 6,800 public sector jobs between 2010 and 2012. Glasgow City Council contested the figures and said it had lost fewer than 500 private sector jobs in the period. The paper compares the Scottish city to Liverpool, which reportedly added 12,800 private sector jobs.
Financial Times, Page: 4

19 Feb
Job losses expected

The BBC reports that up to 2,000 jobs will be axed by Wolverhampton City Council because spending cuts are “worse than previously thought”. The council has increased the figure from 1,400 jobs because it says it needs to make £123m savings over the next five years. Meanwhile, the Yorkshire Post reports that some 650 jobs could be lost at Bradford Council as a result of the Government’s cuts.
Yorkshire Post, Page: 1 The Guardian, Page: 8 BBC News

20 Feb
Further fall in jobless

The number of people unemployed in the UK fell by 125,000 to 2.34m in the three months to December, according to the ONS. The unemployment rate now stands at 7.2%, but the ONS cautioned that the improvement in the labour market could be slowing. Overall employment now stands at more than 30m, a rate of 72.1%, which is an increase of 0.6% on a year ago. Meanwhile, more women are in work than at any time since records began, at just over 14m. Average earnings have also increased, by 1.1% in the year to December. However, George Osborne has said the economy is too reliant on consumer spending and that businesses need to invest more and export more.
The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2 Financial Times, Page: 2 The Times, Page: 1-2 The Independent, Page: 10-11

22 June 2014
State jobs face axe
The Telegraph reports that Government ministers are drawing up plans which will involve widespread privatisations, resulting in at least one million public sector workers being removed from the Government payroll by the end of the decade. Meanwhile, in a separate move, Eric Pickles will step up his assault on “exorbitant” salaries for public officials this week by ordering councils to share senior executives across local authorities and stamp out high pay deals. Mr Pickles said: “Councillors now have the powers to stop exorbitant pay deals – they should use them.”
The Sunday Telegraph, Page: 8 The Sun, Page: 2

2 July 2014
Lincolnshire budget cuts
Budget cuts at Lincolnshire County Council could result in 500 job losses, a union leader claims. The council is proposing to cut a further £90m from its budget after an earlier cut of £125m in 2010. Conservative leader Martin Hill said some job losses were expected but added it was too early to give an exact figure.
BBC News

9 July 2014
Southampton cuts threaten 200 jobs
Budget cuts at Southampton City Council could result in nearly 200 job losses. A report due to go before the authority’s cabinet on 15 July is proposing to make the cuts to cope with “a significant funding shortfall”.
BBC News

5 Sep 2014

Thurrock confirms job losses
At least 200 jobs are to be cut at Thurrock Council as part of its £37m three-year savings plan.
BBC News

9 Sep 2014
Council plans cutbacks
Wirral Council is proposing to remove some school crossing patrols and to reduce community library opening hours as part of a further £45m of cutbacks. The council has already made £100m of cuts and announced up to 500 job cuts. It has to save £18m next year and £27m in 2016-17.
BBC News