The 100 towns selected by the Government last year as eligible for a Town Deal are going to be submitting their draft Investments Plans in three tranches, depending on when they will be ready: at the end of July, October and January. Town Boards need to let the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government know by 13 July which tranche they expect to be in. This will ensure that the money is allocated in this financial year.
Town Boards have been unable to meet in person since the Covid-19 lockdown. While some lead local authorities are still on track with writing their bids to attract up to £25million of Government funding, some have been diverted to more pressing Coronavirus-related activities. MHCLG has published further guidance asking that Covid-19 be factored into Investment Plans, and towns are being asked to indicate which of their projects are ‘shovel ready’.
Bidders are not expected to ask for the full £25 million in most cases, and in all cases bids will be rigorously scrutinised to ensure that central government funding is levering in additional investment. The new guidance places a renewed emphasis on resilience and on flexibility to evolving contexts, preferring projects “that will be valuable against a number of possible scenarios, rather than large, risky investments.”
Bidders will be allowed two attempts at submitting their Investment Plans to the Government. They may be sent back after the first attempt to rework the Plan before the Government is willing to enter into negotiations on a Town Deal. If they fail a second time, they will be no longer eligible for a deal.
Towns should make use of the help on offer from MHCLG’s Towns Hub, containing government officials who are able to provide technical advice and guidance on submitting a bid. To qualify for a large investment, Towns will need to work hard on developing an investment case which not only conforms to the rules of the scheme, but which is in tune with today’s social context and which is able to communicate clearly the beneficial social, economic and environmental consequences which will flow from a Deal.
Six types of investment are identified in the government guidance, for which outcomes should be predicted. For example, an investment in full fibre infrastructure with the local authority as an anchor tenant could have the predicted consequence of providing more flexibility for people to work remotely, for businesses to use digital channels to access goods or services, or to encourage further investment in the town’s digital connectivity by network operators. Each town will have different priorities – such as local transport, skills development capacity or urban regeneration – and it is essential that point of the bid is easily understood by officials and Ministers. A clear narrative explanation will need to sit alongside the economic modelling which must be based on a Theory of Change (as explained in HM Treasury’s Magenta Book).
Westco’s communications expertise is being made available to Lead Councils which recognise the need for their vision, strategy and bid elements to be convincingly communicated to the Government. The bids also have to be communicated to local stakeholders and to the general public, through traditional media and social media. A requirement of bidding is that the final Town Investment Plan is published on the Lead Council’s website or a town Deal-specific website.
When MHCLG has agreed to a Town’s bid in principle, Heads of Terms are agreed and signed. This represents the end of Stage One of the process and the beginning of Stage Two, in which detailed negotiations take place on the allocation and timing of investments within the agreed framework deal.
- For further information on how Westco can help you communicate your town’s vision and Investment Plan, please contact Simon Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Adrian Pepper (email@example.com)