Eastbourne Borough Council and Lewes District Council – A new joint approach to regeneration and economic growth

Support from the Productivity Experts Programme was secured to assist with the design and delivery of a new joint approach to regeneration and economic growth for the recently established shared Regeneration service of Lewes District Council and Eastbourne Borough Council.

Efficiency and income generation

Despite similarities between the two local authorities, the differences including strategic and spatial make up and priorities presented key challenges for the team.

Rubicon Regeneration Ltd (David Howells) was commissioned as the Productivity Expert and the end result was an internal high-level strategic ‘position statement’ (available on request) that identified regeneration priorities for each authority and areas for future collaboration. It further provided advice on short and medium term operational priorities to deliver against strategic objectives including future projects and programmes.

The challenge:

In response to the loss of central Revenue Support Grants by 2020, the Cabinets of Lewes District Council and Eastbourne Borough Council approved the Joint Transformation Programme (JTP); to deliver the majority of council services via shared teams. The purpose of JTP was the formation of two strong and resilient councils through the full integration of management, services and ICT to protect frontline services and deliver up to £2.7m savings a year by 2019/20.

The JTP resulted in the establishment of a combined Regeneration service to lead on regeneration and economic development activities across the Lewes District and Eastbourne Borough. A key challenge for the new team was how to plan an intelligent approach to sustainable economic growth considering ongoing fiscal pressures and differences in strategic and spatial make up and priorities. Notable differences being that the Lewes District is in two Local Enterprise Partnerships as well as a City Deal Region, and as a District includes varied economies - rural, coastal and urban, whilst Eastbourne is a Borough of a single large seaside town.

The solution:

Eastbourne Borough Council and Lewes District Council secured support from the Local Government Association (LGA) Productivity Experts Programme to assist with the design and delivery of a new joint approach to regeneration and economic growth, which recognises the distinctiveness and existing priorities of the two local authority areas.

The Expert was commissioned in 2017 to provide advice, particularly across the following specific areas:

  • Intelligence gathering / assimilation to understand the economic differences and challenges within the two authorities, which will contribute to building the evidence base;
  • Identifying and developing a ‘pipeline of projects’, which align to national and regional priorities, and
  • Developing ‘a plan of action’ setting out operational priorities, including potential development of a Regeneration Strategy for each area.

The end result was an internal high-level strategic ‘position statement’. It recognised the Councils’ existing pipeline of regeneration projects over the short and medium term but highlighted the importance of the Team to externally clarify its role in the delivery of each of these projects as the level of involvement from the Team varies by project. Regeneration projects of corporate priority include the Lewes North Street Quarter, Newhaven Enterprise Zone, Eastbourne Arndale Centre extension, Sovereign Harbour, Hotel of Excellence in Eastbourne and the Devonshire Park redevelopment.

Furthermore the report recommended that the service uses the Five Foundations headings set out in the Industrial Strategy as a framework for its operational plan to strategically align existing priority projects and programmes, as well as incorporating the Experts suggested activities for future collaboration.

Activities which need to be considered to strengthen the impact of the team include:

  • Formalising partnership working with the local Universities to deliver a knowledge-based, innovative economy
  • Substantiating the local authorities’ approach to the skills agenda to achieve high levels of productivity and employment
  • Ensuring the outcomes of contracts in the remit of the team deliver corporate priorities to maximise their impact on the economy
  • Designing a formal structure for engaging with businesses to intelligently inform initiatives to provide opportunities for all companies to grow, innovate and become more competitive
  • Maximising the economic growth outcomes from physical regeneration projects for focused support specifically in those geographical locations that are disadvantaged

The impact (including cost savings/income generated if applicable): 

The Expert’s findings provided a strong foundation to help the new service to forward plan, deliver priorities efficiently and effectively maximise the value of the shared team in achieving sustainable economic growth and regeneration across two local authority areas.

Accessing the support from the LGA Productivity Experts Programme at a critical point of change for the Councils has enabled the new team to obtain an overview of the strategic policy context for both areas. It has also meant that the external and credible viewpoints of the Expert and strategic partners to design an effective joint approach to economic development will be fully considered and incorporated into the decision making and planning processes.

As a result of the JTP Programme, both Councils have four externally focused strategic themes – Growth & Prosperity, Housing & Development, Thriving Communities and Quality Environment. The Councils’ Strategic Lead for the Growth and Prosperity corporate theme, who works closely with the Regeneration Team, will be using the Expert’s report to write a Theme Strategy Statement for Growth & Prosperity. The Strategy Statement will outline the vision and priorities of the Councils’ in relation to economic growth. The projects and outcomes of the Regeneration Team will be aligned with this document.

How is the new approach being sustained?:

A team workshop was organised in February 2018 with the Expert to discuss the advice, activities and recommendations in the final report, one of which is to redesign the Regeneration Team Plan based on the Five Foundations headings set out in the Industrial Strategy. The Regeneration Team Plan will be a key tool to: ensure priorities and activities are strategically aligned; target resources for the greatest economic and social returns; demonstrate contribution to corporate targets and outcomes; and to communicate the precise role and remit of the Regeneration Team. The Plan will be a live document regularly monitored.
A further team workshop, without the Expert, will occur later in the year to explore how to take forward the recommendations including the development and maintenance of a Regeneration Team Plan.
Lessons learned:

It is important to learn from other areas, in particular from local authorities in similar situations. It is helpful in terms of building on good practice in regeneration and economic development to deliver ambitious economic growth programmes in an ever changing context.

Two way communication with key strategic partners and businesses are critical to inform change – external economic changes, and internal workplace changes. The new Regeneration Team need to be proactive in informing such contacts of the Council’s new structure and in particular, communicating who will be project managing regeneration priorities.

Contact: Kerry Barrett, kerry.barrett@lewes-eastbourne.gov.uk, 01323 410000