MJ Regen: Finding solutions together

By Heather Jameson | 14 May 2024

The dire state of local authority budgets are no secret but solutions remain thin on the ground. For many councils, the option of raising council tax is a political non-starter and the next Government is unlikely to turn on the funding taps.

With high-risk investments off the table in the aftermath of some prominent failures, building economic growth through private investment – and the subsequent revenue increase that brings – is one of the few options left on the table.

As Jackie Sadek, chair of the UK Innovation Corridor, puts it: ‘Put simply, the need to align potential investors with local leaders is greater than it has ever been.’

Sadek, a 40-year veteran of the property and investment sector, is chair and architect of the EG Public Sector Forum, pulling together top growth experts to create an environment where public-private partnerships can thrive and create growth opportunities.

The forum is part of a triumvirate of boards created by EG, formerly Estates Gazette, by editor Sam McClary and it launches its first report, Working in Partnership, at UKREiiF in Leeds this month. It is a how-to guide to help public and private sector partners work together.

It is a timely report. It comes on back of the Harrington review of foreign direct investment, published on 23 November 2023, which concluded the UK was missing out on investments that have gone to competitor countries with clearer industrial strategies and stronger government support.

The report says the response to the Harrington Review needs to change the current position. Most of our competitor countries have about 12% of GDP in business investment compared to our 10% – a difference of approximately £50bn a year. The potential payback of getting it right is high.

It also offers practical advice to public and private sectors alike – starting with the key message: ‘To maximise investment into the UK, it clearly makes no sense to try to have conversations separately. We have to work in partnership, and we have to do it better than we’ve been doing in recent years.’

Working with the public sector, the report suggests investors remember that local authorities are not corporates; they require a different approach. It warns of the complexity of the political environment and the local government decision-making process and the varying appetite for risk.

It calls on investors and developers to be mindful of communities, and procurement processes, and warns that local government is driven by more than profit – there needs to be purpose behind investments.

And, if you are in the public sector, looking to work with private sector providers, the report suggests:

1. Offer a key point of contact

2. Agree a long-term strategy, across political parties, to provide stability for investors

3. Offer a joined up approach to planning, spanning boundaries and reducing costs of reports

4. Be clear about your asks on planning gain, s106 and community infrastructure levy

5. Promote your area, not just a site

6. Find the innovation in your area

7. Tell a story about the key sectors you have locally

8. Be honest about your local infrastructure

9. Build partnerships with trust

10. Be able to have conversations about energy capacity for developments

11. Be forward thinking on the green agenda and social responsibility

12. Prepare well for networking events: know your offer and sell it.

This is not the end. The Working in Partnership document is just a starting point for the EG Public Sector Forum.

Working in Partnership will be launched at UKREiiF at 3pm on Wednesday 22 May at the Tournament Gallery, Royal Armories. You can regiser at www.eg.co.uk/public-sector-forum-guide-registration-form

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