Monday, 23 January

By Andrew Starkie, Director and lead of the Prosperous Inclusive Places Mission.

You may be feeling cynical about the chances of winning from the levelling up fund. But nonetheless, round three is approaching – and if you are part of the 80 percent who failed to see their efforts rewarded this time, it’s worth thinking about how to build on the investment you’ve made in this process. I know from working with many councils that several who were unsuccessful in the first round have succeeded this time. To get them over the finish line my team and I challenged the strategy, viability and deliverability of their bids until they were watertight. Here’s that process in detail:



Make an honest review of your plan. Be forensic. You have built a vision, made the case for its importance and understood the benefits it will bring to local communities. Are there genuine barriers to achieving the vision and with more time how might you remove them? Yes, you have encountered a setback with funding. But the fundamentals of the need for your project haven’t changed. Focus again on exactly how your resources will deliver your goals. We have helped many local authorities reinvent unviable schemes by exploring internal systems and redesigning delivery models with private investment.

Reassure your cheer squad. A successful campaign relies on a focused movement of supporters who can advocate for the positive impact of a project or plan from a variety of perspectives, in one voice. Now is the time to re-engage the people who have been with you on this journey. Show them that you are still committed to the vision and that the investment so far is not “sunk” but the first stage of delivery. With agreement on the objectives and deep support, the certainty and pace of delivery is increased and barriers caused by doubt reduced.


Ensure you can demonstrate long-term investing commitment beyond temporary funding rounds. Show that you can integrate business growth and skills, new homes with social infrastructure, development with green growth or economic growth tackling generational poverty. You almost certainly can’t deliver everything on one site, so look across your portfolio of projects for a balance and viable levelling-up programme. Where there are still gaps can you leverage other funding sources and think laterally. For example, Project Gigabit – part of the government’s nationwide £5 billion plan to supply hard-to-reach areas with better broadband – is a great example of alternative levelling up funding. Historic England also supplies grants and resources to local authorities, for heritage sites and buildings in their area. Another option: the One Public Estate Brownfield Land Release fund round 2 – up to £180 million capital grant funding – is now open to support the release of council-owned brownfield land for housing and regeneration. At ICC we’ve secured more than £160 million of funds for local authorities to progress stalled schemes over the last three years by being across all the funding options available.

Scrutinise your internal mechanisms for funding and finance. Don’t forget to look at how you can best use Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy funds, for example. Working with Herefordshire County Council we’re developing a strategic approach to infrastructure funding that amalgamates funding across directorates and targets it at supporting growth and investment. Can you leverage your balance sheet and covenant to bridge viability gaps? By establishing clear objectives and balancing risk you can better attract commitment from developers and investors, that in turn can accelerate the pace and quality of delivery of priority projects. All by using what’s already available to you.

Look at the wider asset portfolio. Did your bid look widely enough? The seven local authorities of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority had an ambition to double the size of the economy over the next 20 years, improve skills of local people, and create the most highly skilled workforce. They focused on a strategy  to grow all together the twelve Market Towns within greater Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Each had their own challenges from poor health, little social cohesion, low education standards and productivity to lack of infrastructure investment and limited affordable housing supply. But working cross local boundary, we showed it was possible to produce place-specific frameworks to tackle precise need, with a master plan, template and method that could work across all of the combined authority area.

Celebrate your geography and your neighbours. To generate economic resilience and stability, you have to show connections and co-working. Perhaps a set-back can galvanise a fresh university partnership and together you can help local businesses to design and deliver training programs that prepare workers for in-demand jobs, and collaborate on research projects that address local economic challenges and opportunities, supporting more economic activity in the local area. The cladding and retrofit of new homes might be best done at a sub-regional level, for example. It’s a model being piloted in the West Midlands to stimulate a stronger supply chain and attract private finance.


Develop Strategic Partnerships. How can central government support your objectives beyond one off funding applications? We have learned from our work with the Association of South Essex Local Authorities (ASELA) that shared risk and a collaborative programme approach provides long term resilience and contingency against barriers in delivery. ASELA is piloting a new model for The Strategic Place Partnership (SPP) that brings together the Government’s housing and regeneration agency and local authorities to provide £15 billion and 100,000 jobs by 2050. The SPP promotes alignment on shared strategic housing delivery priorities and outcomes, working with the full range of Homes England resources.

Show how the Council can work with the private sector to drive residential development, regeneration and economic growth. We have often seen that working closely with the private sector to balance risk and promote the commercial and social value of a scheme can attract investment and kick start delivery built around flexible operational and delivery models.  In Waltham Forest we worked with the private sector to develop a cost-neutral regeneration programme around the Town Hall campus that refurbished and opened up the restricted listed town hall to create a welcoming environment for all the community and tackled issues of housing supply in the borough. The project raised interest and competition in the market and used private sector resources to deliver where the council did not have the capacity or capability to do so.

At Inner Circle Consulting, we fully understand the challenges and risks facing local authorities right now. We are also committed to working through the knottiest problems faced by leaders and their teams. Together, we can make your project a success, and make a positive, sustainable impact in your community.