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Using evidence for making sense of policy debates in this election

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policy debate - Westminster

The UK’s general election campaign is now in full swing, with the policy announcements, promises, claims and counterclaims that come with it. Very soon we will see the publication of manifestos, and with them some idea of what the next five years will bring in public policy, one way or another.

During elections we are reminded that, often, policy is downstream of politics. Headlines, soundbites and promises of what can be achieved usually take precedence over detail, explanation, and the specifics (and trade-offs) of how those achievements might happen.

On local economic policy, election campaigning tends to emphasise transformational change and big impacts on people’s lives. The reality though is more complex, and even well-thought through and impactful policies will often make more marginal changes and take time to filter down and improve anything for people day-to-day. Our evidence briefings and reviews remind us that the reality of local economic policy is difficult and nuanced and the evidence isn’t always clear how best to go about achieving change.

Making sense of the different proposals and arguments about the economy and local growth can be daunting, but thankfully there are resources that can help us be better informed about the public debates shaping our future. From independent fact checking resources like or BBC Verify, to programmes looking at the detail behind the statistics like BBC Radio 4’s More or Less, there is lots out there which could help.

Our fellow What Works Centres can also be a source of useful guides to understand the evidence and detail behind the policy areas that they cover, from education and broader policy for young people, to policing and crime reduction. A list of the Centres and links to their websites is here.

For our part, we hope that our series of core concepts blogs provide a good primer on some of the major terminology and issues related to local economic policy. From understanding what productivity captures, and what drives it, to being on top of things like deadweight – often the undoing of poorly thought-through policy – these blogs can help you make sense of some of the debates and proposals around local growth. We hope you find them helpful for navigating the election arguments made over the next few weeks.