Empowering Towns: Navigating Long-Term Plans and Local Authority Challenges

April 2024 | John Rigby

Completing a robust Long-Term Plan for Towns (LTPFT) submission to government in a relatively short space of time is very challenging.

Allocating £20m of “endowment style” funding over a 10-year period, across a town, and split between three themes (Safety and Security; High streets, Heritage and Place; and, Connectivity and Transport) will require some tough decisions, innovative thinking, and creative funding solutions that help boost the investment amount over that period.

Managing the input of stakeholders within the process is a significant element of LTPFT set-up and delivery – and given the relatively modest sums of initial funding, managing their expectations is likely to form an important aspect of this.

Delivering a Strong, Innovative Long-Term Plan:

In simple terms delivering a LTPFT requires adherence to the Government’s guidance to develop a high-level 10-year vision document, which clearly identifies the longer-term priorities for the town and an accompanying first 3-year investment plan as an annex; which needs to contain a list of priority capital and revenue interventions..

The Government has set a submission deadline of 1st August 2024. Our experience with Town Investment Plans and Levelling Up Fund bids suggests delivery within 4 months will require swift mobilisation, utilising previous work to secure stakeholder agreement of the vision and priority projects for the 3-year investment plan.

The Genecon team is used to working at pace. Our pinnacle achievement is perhaps the submission of twenty-two LUF Round 2 bids in August 2022 to meet the Government’s deadline.  For the preparation of the LTPT, although 4 months sounds like a reasonable period, our experience is that the time will disappear quickly.

Placing local Strategic Visions & Priorities at the heart of the Long-Term Plan:

Focusing, aligning, and optimising LTPFT resources must form part of the strategy, as well as avoiding spend on interventions that do not achieve the change needed. Whist the bottom-up approach of the LTPFT funding is a strength, there will be a risk of spreading investment across too many interventions that, whilst laudable and important, do not address the fundamental issues. Focus or spread will no doubt be an important debate within each existing or emerging Town Board.   This situation is made more acute given the current public sector funding environment and identifying innovative ways of addressing and managing this issue so that the LTPFT funding has maximum impact is a priority.

A LTPFT offers the opportunity to align additional funding with current strategic visions and priorities. Those of the local economic strategy may provide a good starting point for the LTP, but there will be other and emerging strategic ingredients around community, place, health and crime & community safety that need to be included.

There is also much to be gained from reviewing strategic cases and content from existing regeneration bids and programmes, such as Shared Prosperity / Multiply, and Levelling Up Fund bids. These programmes have similar aims to attract investment and create jobs, deliver vital new infrastructure, address shortages, and help restore pride in place.

Establishing an effective Town Board that meets the requirements of the LTPFT guidance:

The LTPFT guidance dictates that Town Boards must be chaired by a local community leader or local businessperson.

“The chair should act as a champion for the town and provide leadership for the Town Board, ensuring it is community-led and embedded within the local area.”

They can be anyone who holds a prominent role such as:

  • the head of a local charitable organisation
  • a philanthropist
  • the head of a Further Education College
  • a director for the NHS Board or Trust
  • a director of a football club

In towns where a Town Deal is in place, the LTP may provide the opportunity to refresh the Town Board. Where no structure exists that could form the basis of the LTPFT Town Board this is an important and significant stage of LTP development. The rapid appointment of a Shadow Board is probably the best approach. Learning from what works well and not so well in current Town Deal towns would also make this process much easier, as the local leader(s) identified can be briefed and advised on town governance issues.

The guidance states that MPs, local councillors, and a police representative must be included on the Town Board. Other members from arts, culture, sport, education, community groups, and VCSE organisations should also be included but there is more discretion regarding the range of organisations which can be included.

Perhaps the most important issue is to ensure the final Town Board composition has the local credibility to be trusted to manage the process fairly and effectively. There is much to be learnt from other regeneration programmes regarding this. Membership is ultimately about providing an effective civic rganization to drive forward long-term investment priorities.

Both the Town Board and client team need confidence in any appointed consultant to guide and steer the process. This means establishing trust quickly. The Genecon team has a strong track record of assisting local authorities to develop effective governance structures for economic regeneration programmes, such as the recent development and ongoing support to the Darwen Town Deal and Rossendale Levelling Up Fund Boards.

Ensuring Town Board partners understand the process, are fully committed and the Board is appropriately supported is critical to build initial momentum and long-term effectiveness.

Perhaps more daunting than establishing Board membership is the need to ensure it is fully functional almost immediately to secure the practical completion of the 10-Year LTPT and 3-Year Investment Plan. It will also be important not to miss the opportunity to include and embed new innovations in civic governance and town management to achieve optimal outcomes. This runs through the Government’s guidance.

The Town Board’s 10-year vision document should include:

  • A 250-word vision statement plus associated local priorities outcomes and objectives and high-level delivery milestones over the 10-year lifespan of the programme – this is effectively a ‘Theory of Change’ process but must include “…what local people think needs fixing”;
  • Details of the Town Board and governance arrangements plus evidence that the Board is community-led and separate from the local authority with membership drawn from a wide spectrum of local public, private and VCSE players. Stakeholder engagement must be evidenced as meaningful;
  • An evidence-driven strategic case for change using the DLUHC data pack provided to local authorities, and incorporating local data and stories to add emphasis;
  • Details of the long-term (2034) priority outcomes and objectives aligned with the priorities of the local community. The specific emphasis in the guidance of ‘What do local people think needs fixing?must come through strongly in the plans submitted.
  • The stated direction of travel for regeneration across the 3 investment themes (Safety and security; High streets, heritage & regeneration; and, Transport & connectivity) needs to detail the interventions planned to achieve this. Town boards are encouraged to draw from the list of high Benefit Cost Ratio interventions listed in the guidance, and add any justifiable and ‘off-menu’ interventions for that theme if they consider this necessary; and,
  • How private, public and philanthropic investment will feature to help achieve the aims and objectives, with an overview of potential future interventions and how the powers in the policy toolkit will be used in a way that best suits the town across the 3 investment themes. The policy toolkit outlines the powers already available to towns to help make improvements. It also includes new powers, which are yet to be implemented, that were introduced through the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023.

The 3-year investment plan annex should set out:

  • The interventions and powers the Town Board wishes to use over the 3 years for each investment theme.Highlighting how existing powers and flexibilities will be used to unlock investment projects in the immediate and long term is important. Evidently, creative use of planning powers and schemes such as Permitted development rights, Local Development Orders, Compulsory Purchase Orders and the Community Infrastructure Levy to enable investment projects is essential. The use of new High Street Rental Auctions (HSRA) as part of schemes to revive High Streets will require careful thought and is likely to need a concerted strand of activity with the right partners to emit sound proposals for inclusion – particularly for any project within the 3-year investment plan. The use of powers to curb antisocial behaviour are also included for use.
  • Whether any interventions are from the list of interventions or are ‘off-menu’.
  • The list of interventions with a high Benefit Cost Ratio listed in the LTPFT guidance indicates the need for value for money /high-impact investment projects. Any ‘off-menu’ project investment must meet the same threshold. The guidance also indicates any off-menu projects will need a Green Book-compliant outline business case, so time alone is likely to make this extremely challenging.
  • A description of how Town Boards will work in partnership with the local authority and other partners to consider how additional funding can be attracted from other sources.
  • Identifying how local authorities, community groups, and businesses are leveraging existing assets and additional resources is therefore imperative. And adding quantifiable value and impact to the original £20m government investment will be essential, although this is likely to be reasonably challenging. This may require a collaborative approach to some projects, with public and private sector partners supporting VCSE partners to deliver projects that lever in assets and funding/investment from other sources (such as private sector partners social investment and philanthropic giving).
  • The role of private sector partners. Specific mention is made in the guidance of local private sector investors acting as potential drivers of the future economy and fabric of towns. Understanding who these investors are and holding discussions with them regarding their contributions is consequently important.
  • There may also be a case for some initial work with a social investor such as Big Issue Invest, the Social Investment Business, or The Key Fund to identify the potential of using LTPT funding to lever significant additional loan and equity funding. Liverpool’s Social & Community Investment Fund is an example of such a partnership approach that was largely successful. This would also build long-term capacity and skills at a community and VCSE level.

Organising meaningful bottom-up Stakeholder & Community Engagement – without losing focus and impact:

Strong evidence of stakeholder and community engagement is required and co-production is a strong theme running throughout the LTPFT guidance, so that there is a clear articulation of the vision and priorities of town residents, businesses and community organisations, evidence of their input, and acquiescence regarding how the £20 million endowment-style funding will be invested. Stakeholder engagement thus needs careful consideration so that it is not something just ‘done’ at the start of the process, but that there is an ongoing, stakeholder engagement strategy that provides many touch points, and is wide and deep in terms of reach. This effectively means:

  • Listening to ‘quiet’ voices alongside others, and being evidence-driven but sensitive to local priorities identified by the community;
  • A multi-disciplinary approach – bringing together a very diverse range of policy areas;
  • Strong data analysis – to create a shared evidence-led approach; and,
  • Meaningful engagement, consultation and ongoing accountability.


LTPT Support Available to Local Authorities & Town Boards

 A Towns Taskforce

The Towns Taskforce is a unit of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities which supports the delivery of the Town Partnerships. For LTPFT the Towns Taskforce will aim to:

  • oversee good governance and delivery and help address any problems that arise;
  • support towns to unlock investment and public support;
  • make it easier for towns to repurpose empty high street shops by reforming licensing rules and supporting more housing in town centres; and
  • look to attract private and philanthropic investment into the 55 towns, championing the investment opportunities to build on the endowment-style funding granted.
  • The Towns Taskforce will report directly to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up and the Prime Minister.

What have LAs received/been promised?

  • a data pack for each town, with a local insight profile curated by DLUHC’s Spatial Data Unit
  • a policy toolkit, outlining powers available to towns and partners across the town
  • a list of policy interventions with an already agreed case for investment
  • dedicated support from the respective area team to help guide the Town Boards and local authorities through the process.


Contact us for support or more information on Long Term Plans.

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