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Getting to grips with the crisis

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Way back in December 2019, we started a series of discussions to revisit the evidence base around key topics with small groups of experts. We chose topics which had formed the basis of toolkits in our resources – specific aspects of policy design for which there were some, but not a lot of, rigorous studies to guide us.

We decided to start the series with our major job losses toolkit, (which had originally been published in 2016) as a few cities were feeling nervous about losing major employers due to the impact of Brexit.

The strongest message in that toolkit is that the political desire to DO SOMETHING to help workers facing redundancy as soon as job cuts are announced should be balanced with the evidence about outcomes. Most workers being made redundant will find new jobs on their own. But there will be a number who will need help. Waiting a few months to see who falls into this second group, and concentrating resources on supporting them with good training and job search guidance, will make the most of the government intervention.

During the discussion, which took place in February, it was clear that although the evidence base is patchy, more general guidance about how to understand and respond to major shocks would be helpful.

Andy Pike at the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University kindly offered to write up an overview based on his research and that of a number of others at the event. We’ve published the resulting briefing, which includes a typology of shocks, overview of potential responses, and guidance on the use of task forces to coordinate efforts.

Although not written with Covid in mind, with the mother of all economic shocks upon us, we hope that some of this guidance might be useful in thinking about the policy response. While this crisis is larger than most, it is happening in slow motion. There is also a great deal of government support on offer, and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. This gives places time to assess how the local economy will be affected, and coordinate responses among a number of key institutions.

We hope that this briefing – in combination with the toolkit on job losses – will be helpful as places rally their stakeholders and make plans to bolster economic recovery.