Dear Secretary of State,
Forest of Dean District Council
As leader of a District Council, previously frustrated in attempts to secure funding and regenerate key areas of our community and economy, through funding issues and red tape, may I take a moment to urge the Government to seize this opportunity, borne out of a crisis, to re-examine the relationship and protocol of funding the UK economy.
Like many Councils we have, in the past, missed out on key regeneration opportunities, or have had our proposals labelled "pipeline" projects - always with an eye to the future, a case of jam tomorrow. No one is better placed to face the enormous difficulties the coming months and years will have in store for us, than district and borough Councils. We are at the very heart of our communities. We know our patch and are uniquely placed to work with town centres to adapt them and regenerate them for the "new normal” way of living. We have strong links to business through local groups and organisations. In our case we have a well-established Local Economic Partnership that can drive a new economic agenda. It is fit for purpose, of its time and made to measure for the area.
Councils like mine have established regeneration teams, driven to succeed and bring benefits to the communities we serve. Their work in turn assists the Government's aims and ambitions. We work closely with our LEP and our Local Government partners to ensure coordinated responses and consistency but local drive and ambition, aligned with national knowledge and guidance, will be the key to our recovery from the current crisis.
I urge you to recognise that this recovery has to be grass roots up and not to allow the “old format” of controlling what growth is made, when and to what extent to prevail. To continue the status quo will doom us to repeat the failures of the past where there are pockets of urban regeneration and recovery but also outlying areas of desperation and failure that may take decades to put right. Out of crisis comes opportunity and this is our opportunity to realign economic growth, to do things differently and to do them more effectively. No more lip service - local councils if given the tools will get the job done because it's in our interests to do so. Now is not the time for the same old, same old, now is the time to be bold and innovative, and have trust in the district and borough councils. The very same councils you have turned to in the current Covid crisis and who have delivered the necessary local response and coordination to support their communities.
I urge you to make the funding available to councils such as mine and task us to deliver the regeneration and growth that we think is needed for our area. Be brave, look at procurement rules that continually delay and prevent Councils acting quickly, efficiently and professionally. Re-examine the PWLB position and make it easier for Councils to invest in business and growth at local levels. We can deliver for you, but we need you to work with us and give us the tools.
Leader of Council