Sunday, 31 January, 2021


Jamie Ounan

We believe that the best solutions are yet to be discovered and the best outcomes yet to be delivered. That is why we prepare organisations for change and help them implement it. We do this through an intimate understanding of their business, a relentless focus on delivery, the use of techniques that challenge the status quo and bridge traditional disciplines. We provide a range of services to public and private organisations including project and programme management, property consultancy, change management and strategy development and strategic advice. Contact us to discuss a project.

Sunday, 31 January, 2021 


In a year’s time, what decisions will you wish you’d taken now? 



As a leader in your organisation, ask this question of yourself and your team: “In one year’s time, what decisions will we wish we’d taken today?”     

This is spurred by reflections in the weekend press. Most people are now wishing we’d all locked down hard in January, rather than dithering with trying to balance the public health and economic crisis. On the upside, the UK invested in vaccines and the infrastructure needed to roll it out, including logistical necessities like fridges – a decisive and valuable move. It must have looked expensive last March but the strategy has turned out to be a bargain and, unlike the on again-off again lockdowns, will simultaneously address our public health and economic crises.   

Working with Council Leaders, we know that they regret salami slicing. Some feel that they’ve had no choice. However, the Leaders we know have never regretted investing in fundamental transformation. Moreover, various successful pivots in response to the first lockdown should give all senior leaders confidence that not only is decisive action possible, it reaps results when it is thought through and executed with tenacity and collaboration. Right now, we are working with several local authorities using the final year of policy conditions (that enable the use capital receipts for transformational activity) to design highly creative and transformative plans. These policies cover the Route to Zero carbon mission, digital inclusion, city economic strategies, planning frameworks for large opportunity areas, and new in-house delivery models that place public services at the centre of the recovery. We are creating detailed implementation plans with assets being used to drive regeneration, generate social value for citizens whilst also creating capital receipts to invest in sustainable service reform. 

Worried about a fire sale of assets in uncertain real estate market conditions? These worries lay close to our heart as well. Those concerns are overcome when a Council or its wholly-owned development vehicle remain a proactive partner and part owner, ensuring both control and ongoing incomes streams are deployed for the public good. If you’d like to know more, make contact with our Director, Jamie Ounan. 


Speaking of decisive institutional leadership, BlackRock’s Larry Fink has issued his annual letter to CEOs. Following big moves in the investment world, led by the Government Pension Fund of Norway, his letter firmly concludes, “Green is good”. He highlights issues that are “pivotal to creating durable value – issues such as capital management, long-term strategy, purpose and climate change.”  

Closer to the day-to-day of UK public service and urban planning, MHCLG has launched a consultation to seek views on draft revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework. The text has been revised to implement policy changes in response to the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission “Living with Beauty” report. Is the ‘Office of Place’ going to be a reductive, centralising force or an enabler that provides resources to local areas? One of the better Design Offices we’ve ever worked with was Design for London – the Mayor’s 100 Place Project was transformational and their input into Opportunity Area Planing Frameworks was disruptive but exemplary (grit in the oyster type stuff). The 2012 Olympic Legacy would be nothing without that team.  

Meanwhile, the government is inviting expressions of interest from local planning authorities in England to test the National Model Design Code. Linking to the point about resource, we would like to see additional resource available for investment in Local Authority teams as well as some meaningful collaborations with the design community. If central government doesn’t provide extra cash, this ought to be part of many progressive Council’s transformation programmes.  

We mentioned in a previous issue that the days of the internal combustion engine are now firmly numbered. General Motors said Thursday it would phase out petroleum-powered cars and trucks and sell only vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035. Another seismic positive shift by one of the world’s largest automakers. It could be faster, but where are the towns and cities with their charging infrastructure rollout? 


Defining levelling-up. Georgina Bailey from Politics Home explored the nebulous definitions and competing policy solutions around the ‘levelling-up agenda’, concluding that: “there is wide agreement that further devolution to local government structures around England will be a boost to levelling up around the country”. OnLondon’s Dave Hill posted way back last year on levelling up within regions as well as between regions.  

On Community Wealth Building, CLES’s Tom Lloyd Goodwin and Neil McInroy argued that longstanding regional inequality can only be solved through genuine devolution and community wealth building.  

City regions. Martin Wolf analyses British regional inequality through the competing lenses of people and place, productivity and consumption – and proposes the development of “city regions” as a solution.  

Local councils under pressure. Meg Hillier, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said the Treasury has “a worryingly laissez-faire attitude” towards local council bankruptcy. 

Constitutional reform. Gordon Brown called for fundamental constitutional changes in an article for the Daily Telegraph through a “commission on democracy” that would “review the way the whole UK is governed”. 

Restoring Your Railways. The third round of the government’s Restoring Your Railway Fund is open for submissions. Led by the Department for Transport (DfT), successful rail proposals will be awarded up to £50,000 each to progress plans to reinstate historic stations and restore passenger services closed during the 1960s Beeching cuts. The Restoring Your Railway initiative aims to accelerate existing proposals for which business cases have already been put forward and develop ideas for restoring or opening new stations. The DfT has said that the aim of the funding is to level up the country and improve connectivity for communities.