Councils and universities join forces to support local growth

Leaders from councils and universities will work together on a pilot project to drive local growth, re-design public services and strengthen the relationship between communities and academic institutions.

The Leading Places Project is funded by Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and will involve university vice-chancellors and council chief executives and leaders meeting to agree local priorities.

University researchers will work to identify skill gaps and organise training places, with the aim of boosting local employment.

The project will launch in Gloucestershire, Manchester, Newcastle and Gateshead, Brighton and Sussex, Bristol, and Coventry/Warwickshire, with the Local Government Association (LGA), HEFCE and Universities UK (UUK) working together to evaluate the pilots, working to evaluate the performance of these pilots.

Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA's People and Places Board and also leader of Gloucestershire County Council, said: "Co-operation with universities will give councils access to greater expertise and research opportunities.

"This is about applying local knowledge to solve problems as well as putting universities at the heart of creating local growth opportunities, innovation and skills.

"The LGA is supporting councils through innovative research projects like this to ensure that they have expertise and knowledge to best serve their communities, grow their regional economies and improve people's lives."

Professor Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE's chief executive, said: "Universities have a key role to play as place makers in their local communities. They bring a wide range of expertise and research capability to apply to the challenges facing local government and their partners.

"The Cities and Devolution Act opens up new forms of investment funding, and new opportunities to tackle the issues which affect people's lives. Strong collaborative leadership will be more important than ever in driving these agendas.

"HEFCE is delighted to partner with the LGA in supporting this programme, which will help to build and transfer best practice in collaborative leadership at the local level."