Where and when to start your local economic assessment

Knowing your starting point

Economic development operates in different ways and this is the first time it has a statutory role. Thus it is really important to understand where your local authority is starting from.

The diagnostic tool we have developed will produce a one-page summary of actions and provide links to key materials and resources.

You might find it really helpful to use it to get a more rounded view of your local authority's position. This would particularly be relevant to those in policy, research, planning, housing, transport, and adults and children's services.

This is guidance to help you, NOT direct you. A local economic assessment (LEA) should ideally be used as a single evidence base to support other strategies and policies: it is not a competition to 'get it right first time'.

The diagnostic tool

You should use this tool before starting to work your way through the guidance, as your answers will signpost you to the relevant sections in this toolkit.

We have identified that there are a number of factors that will have an impact on where you are starting from.

We also appreciate that councils will be coming from very different starting points in terms of their capacity, capability, political 'steer' and history of economic development. The questions and responses of the tool have been designed to take these into account and to provide the right steer in the use of the guidance.

You could also use the tool to gain colleagues' perspectives on the process and their views on the starting position. This might really help you when scoping the purpose of the assessment and key inputs you will need.

Using the tool

  1. Download the tool to your desktop - it is a standalone Excel file.
  2. For each question, choose the statement that best describes your position - note: you can only answer A, B, C or D.
  3. Each answer will generate a response - scroll down past the questions to reveal the responses.
  4. The responses will help you to identify what to review and point you to resources that will help.

Local economic assessment starting point diagnostic (XLS, 137KB)

Core elements of a local economic assessment

Together with the diagnostic, local authorities should be aware of what an LEA should contain, which national performance indicators (NPIs) to use as a foundation and which elements to assess.

Core elements of a LEA


We estimate that this should take a minimum of six months in the right conditions and could take more than a year - particularly in two-tier local government areas.

The action learning set (ALS) view on the assessment is that it should form the basis of a single exercise. It should include data and intelligence available at local, sub-regional and regional level to help inform key strategies and agreements including:

  • the local area agreement (LAA).
  • the sustainable community strategy (SCS).
  • the local development framework (LDF).
  • informing and feeding into the integrated regional strategy (IRS).

This is not easy, given that these have different deadlines and requirements.

The timeline shows how the economic assessment can inform the Sustainable Community Strategy and Local Area Agreement
The above timeline diagram shows how the LEA can inform the SCS and LAA as they converge in 2011.

The first assessment will be an opportunity to develop a single evidence base and a way of bringing together these strategies into a coherent framework. It should be treated as an opportunity to learn and develop internal capacity in preparation for a refresh and fuller exercise in 2013.

While this might seem a long way away, a great deal of the data and intelligence required to support the LEA will be based on existing Census data. The results of the 2011 Census should be ready in time for this review and update in 2013.

At the very least, this first assessment will highlight the gaps in data required. Research other partners such as neighbouring local authorities, the Office of National Statistics (ONS), Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and regional development agencies (RDAs).

The assessment should not be treated as ‘a get it right first time' document. LEAs will vary greatly according to their area or functioning economic geography.

Back to the eight steps of a LEA


2 May 2012

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