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Thoughts from the LGA conference - Blackpool’s beacon for youth
Trowers Public Insight

Thoughts from the LGA conference - Blackpool’s beacon for youth

Despite the prospect of further austerity, last week's LGA conference in Harrogate was largely a positive experience.

Greg Clark's first keynote speech as Secretary of State was in sharp contrast to that of his predecessor, Mr Pickles. Mr Clark's call for greater co-operation between local and central government, his invitation to councils to seize the opportunity of devolution and his statement that the centre had much to learn from local government were all well received. He even managed to bring the house down with laughter with his playful description of Mr Pickles as the "Godfather of local government."

Blackpool Council's joined-up initiatives to provide apprenticeships and training to young people shone as a beacon of the type of innovation which the Secretary of State acknowledged local government excel.

Blackpool is rightly proud about the quality of its youth service. It has taken another significant step forward in devising two programmes to deliver apprenticeships, training and jobs to young people. The Council is single-mindedly using its commissioning and planning policies to encourage and require its private sector partners to maximise the number of apprenticeship opportunities offered to its young people.

The innovative element of its approach is the flexible nature of the arrangements. The Council's apprenticeship partner, the Calico Group, employs the apprentices, who during their training period transfer between private sector companies. This flexibility enables the Council to use its planning policies to require/encourage developers, who may only be active in the borough for a relatively short period, to contribute to the apprenticeship programme. The training offered is diverse and not limited to just the construction industry. The Council is also serious about the importance of implementing social value in commissioning.

The second related programme is designed to assist young people with learning challenges obtain jobs. So far the Council itself is delivering this opportunity, though it is encouraging public sector partners in health and the emergency services to participate.

What really struck me about Blackpool's LGA presentation were the stories from the young people involved. They were consistent in recalling that before participating in the programmes they had extremely low self-confidence with little hope of securing meaningful training or employment opportunities. Yet they also demonstrated the real benefit of the programmes in both having the nerve to be part of the Council's presentation and utilising their new found confidence in their frank discussions with guests.

I also attended a lunch hosted by Pinnacle PSG which also evidenced significant local authority innovation in delivering housing. Natalie Elphicke, together with Pinnacle MD Neil Euesden, led a lively discussion amongst Members and Chief Officers about local action to increase housing supply. Concerns about welfare caps and the extension of the Right to Buy do not seem to have diminished the determination of councils to implement local solutions. This reflects our experience at Trowers & Hamlins where we are experiencing significant demand from clients requiring advice for housing companies and similar solutions.

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