National economic growth can only be achieved if every local economy is firing on all cylinders. Councils need the right powers and adequate long-term funding to play a lead role in unlocking the labour market, creating jobs, plugging skills gaps and delivering for all our communities.
- National economic growth can only be achieved if every local economy is firing on all cylinders. Councils need the right powers and adequate long-term funding to play a lead role in unlocking the labour market, creating jobs, plugging skills gaps and delivering for all our communities.
- The LGA’s Work Local model is a blueprint in how to unlock local growth. It provides local leaders with the powers and funding to work with local partners to join up careers advice and guidance, employment, skills, apprenticeships, business support services and community outreach.
- Poor-quality and insufficient Careers Education, Information Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) remains a key barrier to supporting people secure work placements. It is important that CEIAG informs people about the local and national job market, which industries/ sectors are growing, and which skills are in demand to support people into quality jobs.
- Council ambitions to achieve net zero needs to be backed with a skilled workforce, the availability of good jobs and the right investment. The LGA’s green jobs framework, based on the LGA’s Work Local plan, will enable local authorities to fulfil their place leader roles and strengthen collaboration with local stakeholders.
- Councils want to go further to tackle regional inequalities in broadband infrastructure and accelerate the roll out in hard-to-reach communities. Local authority digital champions act as a central point of contact, helping to extend gigabit-capable broadband across the country as quickly as possible. We are therefore calling on Government to fully fund a digital champion in every local authority.
- Digital access and skills are essential to enabling people to fully participate in an increasingly digital society and councils play a key role in helping people to get online and learn digital skills.
The LGA commissioned Pragmatix Advisory to explore the economic challenges facing rural and coastal areas, with a particular focus on deprivation, and outline what steps government can take to strengthen the recovery and resilience of these communities within the current context.
National economic growth can only be achieved if every local economy is firing on all cylinders. Only with the right powers and adequate long-term funding which allows councils to plan properly, can we play a lead role in unlocking the labour market, building new affordable homes, creating jobs, plugging skills gaps and delivering on other key government priorities. The LGA is developing a white paper with an ambition to secure a national-local partnership in which local government can work to its full potential for our people, our places and our planet.
Devolved funding and increased influence to design services that meet local needs and priorities, rather than to one-size-fits-all approach, will strengthen our ability to create inclusive local economies. What works for major cities is different to what is needed in suburbs, towns, rural and coastal areas and more mixed communities.
Learners and job seekers in rural areas often cite long journey times, cost of transport, scarcity of childcare, and accessible job opportunities for those with caring responsibilities as reasons for dropping out of a course or struggling to secure work. The Government should explore a rural premium to unlock talent.
The LGA’s Work Local model is a ready-made blueprint for making this happen. By giving democratically elected local leaders the power and funding to work with local partners – businesses, training providers, the education system – to join up careers advice and guidance, employment, skills, apprenticeships, business support services and outreach in the community, they could deliver improved outcomes for people living in rural and coastal communities.
Rural and coastal areas have a fundamental role in trade and commerce, and provide an important national resource in terms of food production, aggregates and energy production. They also play a significant role in the visitor economy.
Financial pressures on local government are limiting the ability of rural and coastal local authorities to regenerate and support their towns. We are calling on the Government to provide long-term, sustainable funding for our seaside towns in the Spending Review.
The loss of previous industries such has fishing, has left communities without viable alternatives beyond tourism and recreation, which are typically seasonal, pay low wages and with low job security. While the majority of effort is focused on the visitor economy, other sectors such as renewable energy is a strong industry for these areas, and work is being done to develop the appropriate skills to support work locally. In some areas, promoting or invigorating tourism has been overstated as a solution to local economic challenges. While this type of approach underpins the visitor economy, the aim is to create thriving communities where people are proud to live and businesses are keen to invest.
The delivery of education and training in rural areas also needs to overcome the barrier of provision within more sparsely populated areas. LGA’s recent analysis of the employment and skills landscape also revealed that equality and diversity is not completely reflected in jobs, skills and training opportunities – stark inequalities are prevalent in both people and places. Our research identified several themes that underpin councils’ ability to support greater inclusion across their employment and skills programmes.
We have also published research that demonstrates that while small and medium sized businesses are the lifeblood of our communities, in rural and coastal areas they can struggle to access suitable office space and a properly skilled workforce.
To address youth employment, the Government should appoint a Youth Minister to work across Whitehall, coordinating the various representatives of government departments, local government representatives, including the LGA, business and other representative organisations. This will foster a more co-ordinated and cross-departmental approach to deliver an integrated and adequately funded offer for young people.
Careers education, information, advice and guidance (CEIAG)
Poor-quality and insufficient CEIAG remains a key barrier to supporting people secure work placements. It is important that CEIAG informs people about the local and national job market, which industries/sectors are growing, which skills are in demand, and the range of careers and pathways available.
At present, provision of CEIAG is complex, patchy, and fragmented, with multiple stakeholders delivering initiatives for different age ranges and groups, with no one organisation responsible or accountable for coordinating it with local needs. Nevertheless, many councils are working to ensure an inclusive service for all. For example, Surrey County Council now hosts the Surrey Careers Hub to ensure all stakeholders have access to support and resources.
Local authorities have great ambitions to achieving net zero, with over 300 councils declaring a climate emergency. Ambitions, however, can only be achieved if there is the skilled workforce and the availability for good jobs, matched with the right support and investments to deliver it.
There is a huge opportunity for local communities to create green jobs which can help tackle inequalities, support people through the cost-of-living crisis, as well as achieving levelling up ambitions. For example, with investment, local government could retrofit 1,000 properties a day, which would create 31,000 new skilled jobs in construction and retrofit industries, and there is the potential of 1.18 million new jobs by 2050 in low-carbon and renewable energy industries. There are also significant opportunities for rural and coastal communities in nature restoration, food, agriculture, land management and renewable energy infrastructure.
Some of the systemic barriers that delays the development of green jobs and skills include: the lack of long-term certainty for local businesses; short-term and fragmented funding; capacity; and fragmentation of career pathways.
National government could create and strengthen relationships with local places through the LGA’s green jobs framework. Based upon the LGA’s Work Local Model principles, the framework would enable local authorities to fulfil their place leader roles and strengthen collaboration with businesses, skills providers, and industry, as well as play a part in supporting national investments in net zero. This could provide the much needed, longer term strategic planning, coupled with the right support and investments to deliver on net zero ambitions.
- A co-designed strategic timeline of investments to at least 2030 for skills and jobs.
- Government provided data that enables job and skills planning across national, regional and local areas.
- A local first principle to the delivery of green jobs and skills.
- Aligned funding, qualifications and training to provide a dynamic collective response to the green skills and jobs challenge.
The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero should lead a cross departmental co-production process, in partnership with the local government sector, to develop a national green jobs framework and local green jobs delivery plans.
Regional disparities in digital connectivity
We are concerned that councils in rural communities continue to lag more densely populated areas in the roll-out of 5G and wider improvements to mobile digital connectivity. Seventeen per cent of rural residential premises and 30 per cent of rural commercial premises still do not have access to superfast broadband.
The LGA’s recent report, Rural recognition, recovery, resilience and revitalisation, explores the economic challenges facing rural and coastal areas, with a particular focus on deprivation, and outlines what steps government can take to strengthen the recovery and resilience of these communities within the current context.
With the shift to home and hybrid working, residents in these areas face a particular disadvantage in the labour market. Similarly, businesses who are unable to pivot their working models due to poor connectivity may be at risk. To truly level up communities across the country, Government must commit to continued transparency on contingency measures for those residents who are in deeply rural and hard-to-reach areas.
Analysis from the County Councils Network shows that just 21 per cent of premises in county areas have access to gigabit broadband, compared with London with 70 per cent gigabit coverage, and large towns and cities in the North and the West Midlands with an average of 51 per cent.
We live in an increasingly digital world, with banking, democratic functions, job applications, benefits and other public services increasingly being moved online. Digital skills, equipment and reliable digital connectivity are crucial to enable people to fully participate in society and engage in 21st century education and employment systems.
According to recent LGA research there has been important progress in closing the digital divide in the coverage of superfast and ‘decent’ fixed broadband. However, a new digital divide has emerged in gigabit and full fibre coverage. The top 10% of district/unitary local authority areas enjoy full fibre coverage of over 60%, while the bottom 10% have less than 10% of premises able to access these services. A substantial gap also remains between rural (47%) and urban areas (79%) in terms of gigabit coverage.
Communities rely on high quality transport provision and infrastructure to get on in life. In rural areas, transport is key to helping maintain access to vital amenities and services, but local policy makers face a significant challenge of working within increasingly limited budgets to ensure our transport systems serves even those in the most remote areas.
It is often older people, and disabled and vulnerable adults, that are disproportionately more likely to experience transport isolation. Indeed, Age UK found that cuts to bus services had made it more difficult for older people to get to their local doctor’s surgery and hospital, an issue compounded by the fact that residents will already be less likely to live in close proximity to health settings.
For benefits claimants living in rural areas, their barriers to employment are compounded by whether or not there is suitable public transport at the necessary times, as well as the cost of travel. The limited availability of public transport in these areas, as well as the difficulty providers can face in achieving meaningful engagement with isolated areas, presents a strong case for a rethink in how we deliver skills provision and employment support in our more rural communities.
One particular issue which has worsened in recent decades is that of rural bus network decline, with ridership falling sharply. Reductions in funding for local public transport have led to many supported services being withdrawn, as have those services which were operated commercially but which were found to be unviable. Rural routes tend to be longer and have lower demand than urban areas, costing more to operate but collecting less in revenue.
The cost of providing transport for Special Education Needs students has grown significantly with councils – a phenomenon experienced more acutely in rural council areas. This year, according to the CCN, spending by England’s 37 county and rural authorities on school transport is set to reach almost £1.1bn for the first time, with over two-thirds (£720m) dedicated to transporting an increasing number – 85,000 – of SEND pupils to school or college. This growth is unsustainable.
Providing longer term funding stability and predictability for buses and local transport, would allow authorities and operators to plan their actions and deliver them in a controlled manner. This would allow better use of their scarce staffing and local funding resources; the LGA has called for all public transport subsidies for buses to be devolved to councils.
Highway maintenance funding remains an issue; the impacts of which may be felt more acutely in rural areas given the dependence on car travel. There is a £14 billion funding gap of road repairs nationally. Recently announced Government funding will potentially bring in an extra £8.3 billion over the next decade. However, councils need year-on-year funding certainty over a 5-year period, so that they can effectively plan improvements, gain economies of scale efficiencies and focus on preventative measures, rather than more expensive reactive pothole repairs.