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Helping places make informed decisions about policies to support economic recovery from Covid-19

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We will shortly be launching resources to help places make more informed decisions about policies to support economic recovery from the COVID 19 pandemic.

At a time when many are understandably overwhelmed by the crisis, we hope that these resources will help local authorities and LEPs focus on those interventions which will make the most impact.

A few key messages are already emerging from the work we have done so far:

  • Focus on areas where local knowledge is essential and capacity exists to develop policy quickly. For example, local areas can potentially play an important role in tackling youth unemployment, supporting business-led employment training, thinking about town centre revival, identifying shovel-ready infrastructure, and helping manage public transport and congestion.
  • Seek to inform the national debate when that isn’t the case. Local areas are already helping identify those falling through the gaps of the current support scheme. More of this will be needed at the next stage as will input on how policy develops. For example, some places are already making the case that the next phase of business support should involve an equity dimension. Such a scheme is unlikely to work at the local level, but this shouldn’t stop local government from contributing to the development of a national scheme.
  • Look for opportunities to align the short term response with longer term policy objectives. For example, can Local Industrial Strategies, net-zero and other objectives help inform the set-up of stimulus funds? Is it possible to perpetuate short terms shifts in transport towards more walking and cycling? The extent of the crisis and the risk of a second spike means that there is a careful path to tread here and areas will need to be realistic about tradeoffs where they occur. Good evidence can help understand the options.
  • Good data will help. We’ll shortly be releasing some guidance on what’s available and the pros and cons of different sources.
  • So will good evidence. There’s still scope for monitoring and evaluation to play an important role as we pilot innovative approaches. But we will also need to draw on a wider set of evidence and try to extrapolate to the current crisis. 

Unfortunately, past crisis don’t offer a lot of lessons: we have already searched the academic and historical record for useful lessons from the 1918 flu, 2008 financial crisis, 20th century recessions, natural disasters, and other major shocks. We’ll be pulling out the relevant evidence, but it’s already clear that there’s little to help with local responses. Fortunately, there’s still a lot we can learn from evaluations and evidence on existing schemes, even if there’s some uncertainty about whether those lessons will translate. Our resources will be focused on doing this where helpful.

Knowledge and flexibility will be key this year. If you have policy ideas that you are developing please let us know about them as we may be able to help identify the available evidence.

We’re also keen to act as a hub for exchanging ideas.

If we can help in other ways, please get in touch.