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Councils and business must work together

Raising the Bar: Driving Local Authority and Private Sector Engagement provides an exploration of current private sector policy and practice when dealing with Local Authorities in the area of economic development.

Through interviews with Local Authorities and Chambers of Commerce, it indicates an increasing mutual consensus that:

– Economic development needs to be seen as a priority at the sub-regional and local level, and effective engagement with business is crucial to this;

– A wide range of policy interventions to facilitate this partnership already exist but what is more important for effective long-standing local economic partnerships is trust and motivation;

– The key factors for achieving trust and motivation are: realistic expectations of each partner (in terms of public sector speed of decision-making, private sector capacity, and differing priorities and attitudes to boundaries); a willingness to avoid jargon, demonstrate the benefits of engagement, create informal communication channels and manage meetings effectively.

Richard Lacy (pictured), chief executive of Bedfordshire and Luton business support organisation the Chamber, said: “As we face a more difficult economic climate, the need for effective local authority and business relations is even greater.

“Councils must understand and act on the needs of business in the decisions they make about local economic development. We need to see an end to talking shop meetings and tick-box consultations, with businesses and local authorities stepping up to the challenge.””

Business also had a responsibility to communicate with local government and make its needs known, he added.

“The Chamber has taken up the challenge by issuing its Manifesto for Business that outlines the various measures member businesses think local and national government should make, in conjunction and consultation with business, to improve business conditions,” said Mr Lacy.

“We strongly believe that a positive, constructive dialogue of this kind is especially important in challenging times like these.” “