Why partnership in place is more important than ever

Post author image. Lord Steve Bassam
Lord Steve Bassam, reflects on the publication of Partnerships in Place: the business of levelling up by BITC’s Place Taskforce and its relevance to the recently announced Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.

The business of levelling up

Over the last 40 years, Business in the Community (BITC) has worked with its members to tackle some of the most pressing issues faced by communities across the UK. Today, it is described as “levelling up”, but it has always been part of BITC’s DNA. BITC’s place-based approach has demonstrated the role businesses play in rebuilding the country and communities that have been “left behind”.

The publication of Partnerships in Place: the business of levelling up report by BITC’s Place Taskforce follows the the Government’s Levelling Up the United Kingdom White Paper. This discusses how to increase opportunity and prosperity, and bridge the gap between all regions in the UK. During the Queen’s speech in Parliament, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill was announced making the publication and rollout of BITC’s report even more timely and relevant.

Understanding the need for place-based regeneration

In recent years the future of once-prosperous towns and communities across the UK has been brought into question. A digital divide has developed between cities and the old towns, particularly in parts of the East Midlands and north and west of England, which fuelled the growth of the UK economy for much of the last 200 years. It is true we have something close to full employment, but we also have an under-employment of our talents and capabilities.

BITC has always been conscious of the importance of two strands of thinking within social policy. Firstly, the significance of “place-based regeneration”, and secondly, the central importance within that of “levelling up”. It was in that context that BITC established its Place Taskforce in summer last year.

BITC’s Partnerships in Place: the business of levelling up report

In August 2021, BITC’s Place Taskforce, a group of leaders from business, the voluntary sector and local authorities launched its call for evidence into the role of business in place-based regeneration. A variety of themes were explored, from what motivates business to engage in place-based regeneration and what barriers exist to how local authorities and national government can work with business to encourage engagement.

This has cumulated in a set of four key findings and 14 recommendations which provide practical guidance to business, national government, and local government on the role that business can play in delivering on the ‘how’ of the levelling up white paper. These outputs from the foundations that are needed, both nationally and locally, to truly transform communities.

Partnerships in Place: the business of levelling up aims to:

  • help shape the Government’s levelling up agenda
  • put business expertise and leadership at the service of local communities
  • encourage collaboration and partnership at the heart of levelling up policies
  • bring together local government, business, the third sector and major civic institutions like universities to help “level up” our most deprived communities
  • act as a blueprint for those who believe in strengthening communities and unlocking the potential of left-behind places.

On the 11 May 2022 during the launch event, we discussed the recommendations of the report and what it means for the Government’s agenda. We were joined by a dynamic group of panellists, and we had the opportunity to discuss some of these recommendations and how businesses can join the Levelling up revolution.

Place Taskforce recommendations in action

Following the launch of the report, we will be sharing a report summary during our series of The Prince’s Seeing is Believing visits which begin in late May 2022 as part of BITC’s 40th anniversary celebrations. We will discuss findings with key business leaders and stakeholders in four of the places we are focusing on: Coventry, Bradford, Norwich and Rochdale. The visits will be an opportunity to consider the practical ways business can engage in Place work in these regions and beyond.

Over the following months, we will explore how these findings apply to different business groups and sectors, hosting conversations with businesses as part of ongoing regional events. The outcomes of these events will feed into our business blueprint which will outline how businesses can take action on the recommendations of the Place Taskforce report in collaboration with national and local government.

Partnerships in Place:
the business of levelling up