Step 1: Vision, purpose and scope

This section will help you through the purpose of the local economic assessment (LEA), why it is needed, which policy areas and actions it will shape, what is covered (content) and where (place). It will help you think about where to get data from at national, regional and local levels.


  • Identify key stakeholders - for two-tier areas all your district leads - and set in place an engagement and consultation plan.
  • Develop a map of interdependent policy areas within the local authority that the LEA can inform.
  • Establish core project team and develop a project plan and timetable.
  • Identify resource requirements and support available.
  • Nominate internal assessment 'champion' - at chief executive and or member level.
  • If two-tier, engage district leads in this planning process and build into core project team.
  • Engage with neighbouring authorities to identify and agree appropriate economic geography.
  • Get in touch with your regional improvement and efficiency partnership (RIEP) lead.

Telling the story of place

In developing your LEA it will be important to consider the 'story' of your area, its history, relationships, economic and social profile.

An assessment has to be able to reflect stories of linkages and flows, economic dependencies and infrastructure. Setting out your 'story of place' and agreeing this as the foundation of your LEA with your stakeholders will help you to use data and analysis to suit your area.

Local stories of place


The following core questions should frame your discussions in defining the purpose and scope of the LEA:

  1. How will doing an assessment add value to the authority and our partners?
  2. What do we already know about our area?
  3. What is the impact of our economy on other places and how do we use this process to describe our economic relationships within the region?
  4. How can we use the LEA to help us understand future trends and developments and the economic wellbeing of our area, in terms of:
    • spatial and economic variation: economic sub-areas, rural, urban, coastal geography.
    • the key characteristics of those areas in terms of demography, skills, employment and enterprise.
    • the drivers for change in terms of each of those characteristics in each area.
    • the relative importance in each area of supplementary contexts around: inclusion, environment, housing, planning and connectivity.
  5. Who should own the assessment once it has been done?
  6. How can we ensure it feeds into our sustainable community strategy (SCS), local area agreement (LAA) and other strategies?

Create authenticity, making the assessment 'real'

Your assessment will work best if it ‘speaks' to the regional strategy and the LEAs of your adjoining councils, particularly if you are in a multi-area agreement (MAA).

However, it is also important to produce something which tells the unique story of the place, or more accurately in most council areas, places for which you are responsible.

Ultimately the LEA should inform how you justify your power of economic wellbeing and how you plan more broadly to maximise the impact of the council on your area. You will need to ensure you consult very widely on the scope you have produced.

Use qualitative as well as quantitative data and plain language and approaches which not only engage with internal colleagues and members but also local stakeholders and partners.

Roles of the assessment

Provide local authorities and stakeholders with an understanding of how economic conditions and forces shape places at a range of spatial levels. That understanding needs to inform: policy, priorities, resource allocation and actions.

Reflect the economic character of an area. A local authority is not necessarily a ‘place' - it is a collection of different places. In this sense it has a 'functional' or 'economic' geography and this is what you are seeking to describe.

Local stories of place

Describe the economic forces and factors affecting your area to inform policy and action. Take account of a range of contexts, from international to local, which will condition the future needs of residents, employers and communities. Also consider the role of the local authority in the area as an employer, service provider and commissioner.

Enable challenge, testing and development of policy, visions and aims. The LEA should inform approaches to place shaping, adding and contributing to other strategies and plans. These could include, for example, regional strategies, SCSs, local development frameworks (LDFs), strategic housing land availability assessments (SHLAAs), joint strategic needs assessment (JSNA), MAAs, Growth Area IDPs, city regions and so on.

Draw on best practice guidance on policy research and analysis to help define the approach. An initial source is the Cabinet Office ‘Magenta book'.

Introduction to the Magenta book - on the Policy Hub website

Differentiate between things that can be anticipated, influenced, controlled or observed in ensuring the LEA can both provide a strong understanding of an area and shape interventions.

Ensure compliance with the new duty on upper-tier authorities to assess the economic conditions of their area - Part 4 of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill (clauses 63 and 64).


It is really important to set out the process by which you will develop the assessment. Using project planning techniques, such as those common to the sector or your local authority will help you structure the process in a logical and SMART way.

Identify an internal 'champion' at member and officer level to help you make connections and influence internal stakeholders to lead the process of the LEA. Look forward to where your assessment will need to sit once it is completed and who should own it. Most councils will choose the LSP as the natural home within an economic related sub-group - if there is not an existing legal structure such as an economic prosperity board.

Ensure you have the right coverage within an MAA region: for example, you may want the assessment to cover the defined boundaries of the MAA. However, this should not distract you from analysing your area from a local authority perspective and being able to tell your story at the county and sub-regional level through the MAA process.

Establish a structured regional dialogue to agree a framework for taking forward the LEA and its relationship to the Integrated Regional Strategy (IRS) with your neighbours. Use your regional leaders' forums. This should include agreement on timing and frequency of assessments, review and key data sets.

In two-tier areas, ensure districts are engaged from planning phase onwards to develop and agree purpose and scope and the process for preparing the assessment. Using the requirements proposed as part of PPS4 and other instruments will help you create conditions to support duty of involvement in the process.

Remember that only the LEA and LDF talk to the IRS. So it is important to make sure that, as a top-tier, you are using the LEA to bring coherence to districts to tell the sub-regional story to the regional level. However also ensure that district engagement goes beyond planning and economic regeneration.

Planning Policy Statement 4 (PDF, 119 pages, 612KB) - on the Rocket Science website

Ensure the building blocks of other strategies, plans and assessments are included in the scope of the LEA, including Housing Market Areas (HMAs), Growth Points, and Priority Regeneration Areas.

Build in adequate timescales for developing the assessment. Agree a programme with key stakeholders which meets their requirements. Be prepared to consider an initial draft assessment to a shorter timescale to enable further development and buy-in to a longer-term approach.

Identifying your stakeholders - review help on developing stakeholder buy-in

Make the connections

You need to build good relationships and links with those responsible for commissioning other work which may also help inform the scope and purpose of the LEA. Particularly important will be information and data collected for LDF core strategies, strategic housing market assessments (SHMAs) and SCSs along with JSNAs in your area.

There are really important links to colleagues in children and young people's services who will be taking on responsibility for 14 to 19 education funding and developing a workforce strategy for this in your area.

Do not get bogged down in all the information surrounding these assessments: be sparing and discerning in the information you use from them as part of the development of the LEA.

At the regional level, research observatories and regional development agencies (RDAs) regularly commission and use information and data. They may also allow access to their forecasting tools that you could use to test any scenarios developed as part of the assessment. The regional presence of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) is also important points of reference and expertise.

Work up a resource plan for your assessment which engages with all of these players and enables you to maximise the purchasing power and data-sharing opportunities available to you.

What do you need

Remember you are collecting this data to inform actions, not just draw a static picture - you need to think particularly about how it will relate to the SCS.

  • Start by writing a simple narrative about how your area works economically.
  • Look at the list of data and sources in the 'Core elements' section.

Core elements of a local economic assessment

  • Think about how old each data set and information source is and the level at which information is collected.
  • Organise the data sets according to their age and the geography.
  • Obtain nationally published comparable data for your area and sub-areas.
  • There will inevitably be gaps in the information you would like to know

Step 4: Commissioning and accessing additional data/evidence

  • The LAA monitoring and place survey data will be particularly useful to look at, along with the data collected by planning and housing colleagues in your council.
  • Finally do not overlook the value of local views.

Resource tip

Gauging the views of stakeholders both internally and externally will really help you to understand who to target and with what message. The stakeholder perception tool can be used as an online or static survey of views.

Stakeholder perception tool (XLS, 40KB) - on the Rocket Science website

Communities of Practice website - Requires registration


2 May 2012

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