Economic Growth

County areas are the backbone of the UK economy, delivering 39% – £600bn – of England’s GVA and almost half of England’s jobs. They contain over 50% of England’s manufacturing output, and mix traditional industries with high-tech science and technology sectors.

Within their areas, county councils and unitary councils are lynchpins of their in driving local growth , whether it is through direct investment, their convening role or strategic leadership of place. They combine a deep knowledge of their communities, with the ability to bring together public and private sector partners to set out ambitious visions for their areas, whilst investing millions each year. Now, they are set to take on Local Enterprise Partnership functions in 2024.

The economic challenge facing the country cannot be overstated: ensuring that growth happens in all four corners of the country will require robust strategies to address specific challenges, such as the rise in workers on long-term sick or those who took early retirement, which has disproportionally occurred in county areas.

Equally, growth strategies may be nationally devised, but it will be locally led. Differing areas have differing needs: what is a challenge in County Durham may not necessarily be an issue in Cornwall. Therefore, CCN has argued for a ‘place-based’ approach to growth, built around the strength of county authorities who are able to combine the local with the ability to ‘zoom out’: and putting both of these into ambitious recovery plans. 

This lends itself strongly to the  ‘levelling-up’ agenda, which aims to tackle economic and social disparities across England. 

Economic Growth Key Stats

Economic growth strategies from any government must have a strong ‘place-based’ focus, recognising that each area has its own challenges and opportunities.

Regional investment must reach the areas most in need. This must mean moving away from a simplistic north-south narrative and ensuring that county authorities receive a fair share of resource.

Counties should get a least the same share from future rounds of the United Kingdom Shared Prosperity Fund as they did from the current tranche of European Union Structural Funds.

The next government must continue the momentum on county devolution, and further economic powers should be offered to local areas as part of agreements.

Devolution deals in county areas should have access to the same level of powers enjoyed by urban metro mayors.

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Timelines: County Council Policies
Announcement Date: 16/02/2020