TRL Insight newsletter May 2023

Welcome to the first issue of the TRL Insight newsletter!

Given how overloaded with information everyone is these days, this newsletter won’t stick rigidly to a fixed, regular cycle. Instead, it will be issued from time to time, as the content warrants. The intention is that it:

  • will highlight things you might have missed;
  • keep you abreast of developments in the realms of public policy, best practice and analysis;
  • keep you informed of what TRL Insight has been up to, what services TRL Insight could provide you with and opportunities to get involved with TRL Insight.

This issue contains the following:

Please do forward this to any colleagues or contacts who you think might find it interesting.

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Reports you may have missed


The Preventative State: Rebuilding our local, social and civic foundations

This essay-style report from Demos looks into how to create a shift from reactive to preventative public services.

It argues that current trends of rising demand for services are unsustainable, requiring a fundamental change in the model of state provision.

The need for ongoing intervention can be reduced with greater investment to build social capital.

This would prevent problems from arising and nurture resilient, prospering communities.


Fiscal Devolution: why we need it and how to make it work

This report from New Local is available as a 20-page pdf document or can be read directly on their website. It:

  • sets out the case for UK fiscal devolution;
  • uses OECD data to show how central government dominates the fiscal balance and the impact of this on outcomes such as prosperity;
  • describes and assesses five options for greater fiscal devolution;
  • emphasises the importance of equalisation;
  • emphasises the need for wider constitutional and legal protection for local governments and communities.

Policy and funding announcements you may have missed


Third round of Community Ownership Fund launched

The Government launched the third round of its £150 million Community Ownership Fund on 12 May. The fund helps community groups to take ownership of local assets that might otherwise be lost.

Various changes have been made to the fund, including:

  • An increase in the amount of funding that groups can bid for, from £250,000 to £1 million;
  • A reduction in how much match-funding is required, to 10%;
  • Parish councils will now be able to bid for the funding.


Right to Buy receipts to be retained locally for two years

The Government wrote to local authorities on 31 March regarding the Right to Buy. The letter states that councils can retain 100% of all receipts for 2022-23 and 2023-24. Councils have five years to spend these receipts.

The LGA has long campaigned for 100% retention of receipts; it has welcomed the move, but called for it to be made permanent.

Reactions from nine councils with high levels of Right to Buy sales can be read in an article in Inside Housing. Further commentary and analysis can be found in a blog by AWICS.


Case studies and awards


Manchester city centre introduces tourism tax, with Wales and Edinburgh to follow suit

Manchester’s new Accommodation Business Improvement District (ABID) began operation on 1 April. As set out in its Business Plan, it is funded from a charge on all 73 hotels with qualifying rateable value in the zone, of £1 per occupied room per night. The ABID complements the city’s existing Retail/Food & Beverage BID.

Edinburgh Council approved plans for a similar charge last November, based on development of a Bill by the Scottish Government. The Welsh Government is also developing proposals to allow local authorities to levy a charge.

New research reveals the scale of funding that could potentially be raised by English councils.


Community Land Trust (CLT) homes prioritise Lewisham locals for sales

Campaigning by Lewisham Citizens for affordable CLT housing began in 2014. They worked with London CLT to identify 43 potential sites.

In 2016, Lewisham Council started working with them to develop one such site in Sydenham. New Start reports that the council provided the land for free. 11 homes were built and residents have moved in, including key workers and artists. Unusually for a CLT, the homes were sold rather than rented.

The homes were co-designed by the community and sold at prices based on local earnings.


Local Government Chronicle (LGC) 2023 Awards – shortlist announced

The LGC has published the shortlists for its awards. They list 186 examples of innovation and best practice from almost 120 councils, in 22 categories.

Categories include: Community Involvement; Economic Support; Future Places; Innovation; Public Health; Diversity and Inclusion; Climate Response.

For each entry on the shortlist, LGC has published a one-paragraph description.

The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony in London on 8 June.

Events that might interest you


Stronger Things 2023 – Community Power: Making it happen

Stronger Things 2023 is a one-day community power conference run by New Local. It takes place on Tuesday 23 May in London’s Guildhall and online. Online attendance is free; it’s also free in person for members of New Local and community organisations. For public sector and not-for-profit attendees, tickets are only £40.

Topics include:

  • participatory decision-making and public service transformation;
  • local economies and community-led businesses;
  • devolution and its impact on communities;
  • culture change and local leadership.


Social Research Association (SRA) annual conference

The SRA will be holding its annual conference on 15 June at the Royal College of Physicians in London.

The conference brings together researchers and research users from across sectors: central and local government and other public bodies, research agencies and institutes, academia, and the independent and charity sectors.

Speakers come from BBC News, HM Treasury/Cabinet Office, University College London (UCL) and University of Manchester/Cardiff University.

Outputs produced by TRL Insight


Inclusive economies and healthy futures – case studies for Local Government Association (LGA)

This 2021 output is centred around a set of six case studies on the relationship between health and economic prosperity. These show how English councils understand that helping people into employment and to progress in their careers goes hand-in-hand with supporting healthy, enjoyable lives. By highlighting innovative policies and interventions, they provide inspiration for other areas.

The case studies are supported by a short foreword and a substantial introduction. The latter has the form of a wide-ranging briefing on the subject, containing further examples of good practice.


Fragmented Funding – report for Local Government Association (LGA)

This 2020 report looks into the fragmentary nature of central funding to local government. It identifies over 400 grants over a four-year period. Its analysis highlights:

  • how many of these are very small in total value;
  • how many require councils to submit bids;
  • how short-term many of them are;
  • how many government departments and agencies the grants are channelled through;
  • how much of the total funding is for services over which councils have very little control;
  • the resulting impacts on four key service areas.


Building Freedom — a report by TRL Insight

This 2020 report looks into how public sector accounting practice by the Government holds back investment in homes and infrastructure.

It highlights the way which Government treats local authority financing as its own in Budgets and Spending Reviews. This practice is contrasted with that in Denmark, Sweden, Canada (particularly British Columbia) and France.

It makes recommendations for the reform of fiscal documents (Spending Reviews, Budgets and Spring/Autumn Statements) and the consequent constraints placed on local authority capital financing.


Response to Fair Funding Review consultation

TRL Insight’s 2019 response to the Government’s consultation A review of local authorities’ relative needs and resources. Key points include:

  • the relation between transitional arrangements, the use of tax base projections and incentives/rewards for building homes and business premises;
  • how excessive focus on simplification could leave some service areas significantly under-funded in some areas;
  • issues concerning the concessionary fares and highway maintenance formulae.


Fair Funding Review modelling tools — for Local Government Association (LGA)

TRL Insight created two of three Excel tools in 2018 to help councils evaluate the impact of future proposals arising from the fair funding review:

  • The relative needs model, which allows users to create up to 13 formulae based on a set of over 100 cost drivers (“indicators”);
  • The council tax deduction (“relative resources”) model, with different measures of the council tax base and notional Band D rate.

These are exemplified for all LGA member councils, with regional and class totals.

Other outputs to which Tom Lawrence has contributed


Improving infrastructure funding and delivery – report by Pragmatix Advisory for County Councils Network (CCN)

Tom Lawrence co-authored this 2023 report with Mark Pragnell while employed by Pragmatix Advisory.

It explores how provision of sub-national infrastructure by councils and their partners could be boosted. It highlights:

  • Strengths and weaknesses of the Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy regime and the proposed Infrastructure Levy;
  • The importance of shared strategic visions for county areas;
  • The policy and funding regime required to unlock sites, manage risks, stimulate upfront investment and facilitate credit repayment.


Creating resilient and revitalised high streets in the ‘new normal’ – report by Pragmatix Advisory for Local Government Association (LGA)

Tom Lawrence contributed significantly to this 2022 report while employed by Pragmatix Advisory.

It looks at what councils can do to promote prospering, revitalised and resilient high streets. It draws on many interviews, supplemented with desk-based research.

It looks at the differential impact of covid on a variety of types of high street, but also examines the effects of longer-term trends, many of which were accelerated by covid.

It uses case studies to highlight the most successful policy responses.

Neighbourhood services and sustainable local government—report by New Policy Institute (NPI)

Tom Lawrence provided advice for this 2019 NPI report for the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE). It examines cuts to councils’ spend over the period 2012/13- 2017/18 on:

  • culture and related services;
  • environmental and regulatory services;
  • planning and development;
  • highways and transport.

It highlights the deep cuts in these services in many authority areas and suggests strategies for restoring the services over coming years.


School funding pressures in England — report by Education Policy Institute (EPI)

Tom Lawrence co-authored this 2018 report with Jon Andrews, while employed by EPI. It analysed the trends in school balances between 2010-11 and 2016-17 for local authority maintained schools, showing increasing numbers in deficit at the end of this period.

It also showed that nearly half of all state-funded mainstream schools looked unlikely to receive sufficiently additional funding in 2018-19 and 2019-20 to meet the costs of a 1% pay increase for educational staff.

How TRL Insight can help you

For a full description of how I can help you, click here.

However, I am most interested in small-scale projects, such as:

  • providing expertise and advise in a “senior advisor” role in research work;
  • proofreading and “report polishes”;
  • quality assurance/auditing spreadsheet analysis;
  • providing a short, ad hoc briefing on a subject of interest;
  • putting together a small collection of case studies;
  • compiling simple spreadsheets from known, high-quality data, for example to feed into a larger piece of analysis.

To discuss further how I can help you, please contact me: 07758 139725 01785 229307


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