Localised Widening Participation Strategies – a data-based approach

The results of a year-long study by the Southern Policy Centre, supported by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and GuildHE.

The study has used ‘open data’, and data held by local councils, to explore why able young people may miss out on university. The data has been used to suggest possible local widening participation strategies.

What do Hampshire businesses want from local government?

Hampshire businesses have had their say in what they want to see from local government and from any devolution deal done with central government:

Hampshire businesses want to see a single, simple to engage with local authority, with a more ‘can-do’ approach to business.

There is overwhelming support for the devolution of more powers and resources from central government and for a more strategic and integrated approach to economic development, infrastructure, housing, transport and planning. These are two of the headline conclusions of a survey of business attitudes towards local government and devolution undertaken by the Southern Policy Centre for Hampshire County Council. There was no clear consensus on the most appropriate geography for single local government structures. Businesses tended to identify distinct economies and characters of the north and south of Hampshire (including the cities and the Isle of Wight), although there was some support for a ‘single county’ approach. Business also wanted to see better links between the cities and their hinterlands. While there was little support for the current two-tier structure, businesses recognised that large authorities would still need localised democratic decision-makng structures. The interest of small businesses needed to be protected in any change to large authorities. Businesses generally enjoyed a positive relationship with local authorities although concern was expressed that some councils were losing key business facing officer expertise as a result of spending cuts.  The biggest frustration was the inconsistent policy approaches of different local authorities, while there was a perception that within local authorities economic development and planning were often badly coordinated. The majority of businesses support elected mayors, though they stressed the need for strategic leaders rather than personality-based candidates. The report was based on nearly 50 one-to-one interviews with business leaders and six focus groups covering different sectors of the economy and different parts of Hampshire. The report sets out a number of guiding principles that should be taken into account in any future decision-making:

 

  • Business would welcome single-tier authorities, but there was no clear consensus over their size and geography. Any proposals should set out how they relate to recognized economic areas. The key choice would appear to be between a binary structure, based on the southern urban area and the north and more rural parts of the county, and a single ‘county, cities and Isle of Wight’ structure
  • The need for a strategic approach on development and infrastructure favours larger authorities. Any proposals for larger authorities should set out how local democratic decision-making can be retained on appropriate issues
  • Businesses were concerned about the loss of capacity and expertise amongst officer teams in some smaller local authorities. Any proposals for reform should show how sufficient capacity and expertise would be retained and strengthened, and care should be taken not to seek cost savings at the expense of the quality of business engagement with local government
  • Any proposals for larger authorities should show how the interests of small businesses in local decision-making and as suppliers would be protected
  • The retention of business rates can potentially strengthen the relationship between local government and business, but business rates themselves were widely seen as unfair. Local government must plan now to ensure it is far more accountable to its business rate payers once this change is implemented
  • Devolution presents a genuine opportunity to grasp the nettle and become significantly better at planning and delivering transformational infrastructure projects. Any proposals for change must show how a new local authority structure will be able to exercise powers that are now (or in the future may become) available in an efficient, effective and democratic way
  • Any proposals for change must be sensitive to the wider uncertainties affecting business, including potential changes to business rates and the UK’s exit from the EU. Any reorganisation of local government and/or devolution deal needs to be executed as quickly, cleanly and clearly as possible, across an economic geography that ‘makes sense’
  • A majority of businesses would support an elected mayor, and there do not seem to be substantial business objections to the creation of such a post

 

Why are some areas falling behind in university participation?

SPC launches major new research project into widening participation to Higher Education

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) have produced and published a set of analysis that looks into trends in HE. In particular their statistics on young participation show that there are unexplained gaps in levels of participation from area to area.

The Southern Policy Centre have been commissioned by HEFCE to look more closely at five local authority wards in southern England. We want to know:

  1. Whether there are other available data sets that explain why participation in HE is lower than expected in these areas
  2. How we can use this information to improve widening participation strategies for these areas
  3. If we can use this research to produce a toolkit for other similar areas up and down the country

We’ll be working closely with universities, schools, local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships to conduct this project.

For more info please contact Izaak on wilsoni@southernpolicycentre.co.uk

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The think tank and policy forum for central southern England

New approaches to long term challenges

Why does central southern England need new focus?

Central southern England stretches broadly from Dorset to West Sussex, and the Isle of Wight to Oxfordshire. The region has had little public policy focus despite facing challenges distinct from both the metropolis and other English regions.

Our public spending per head is low though we face the triple costs of deprived urban areas, rurality and an ageing population.

Average incomes are above the national average but this can mask sharp inequalities and high living costs. Our population is growing with significant migration from other parts of the UK and abroad, but there is a real conflict between the need for housing and the sensitivity of the natural environment.

Economic development, though generally good, is uneven and constrained by shortages of skills, infrastructure and finance. There is a danger that policy makers will become complacent about the unique needs of the region.

What does the SPC contribute?

We’re a cross-party thinktank responding to these distinct challenges and opportunities. We specialise in:

Our Advisory Board brings powerful talents, impressive experience and expert insight to the real world challenges we are committed to tackling.

Above all, our work will always be rooted in practical policy making. We work with leaders in business, government at all levels, and the third sector to make sure our research has a positive impact for southern England.

Launch of the Southern Policy Centre

Southern Policy Centre launches with BBC coverage and ministerial backing

The Southern Policy Centre was launched at a major regional conference today. Keynote speakers included the Rt Hon Greg Clark, Minister for Cities, and Lord Andrew Adonis the Shadow Minister for Infrastructure.

We were delighted to welcome speakers from the private, public and civic sectors including: Cllr David Burbage (Leader Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead), Professor Stuart Bartholomew CBE (Vice Chancellor of Arts University Bournemouth), Dawn Baxendale (CEO Southampton City Council) and Peter Henley (Political Correspondent BBCTV South).

The event was hosted by Professor Joy Carter, the Chair of GuildHE, and sponsored by Zamir telecom.

Related links:

6th form students celebrate launch of SPC

Winchester MP supports SPC launch

About the Southern Policy Centre