Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal

The Borderlands Partnership, comprising five local authorities on the border of England and Scotland, secured an innovative growth deal with the UK and Scottish Governments: the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal. The Deal will bring in up to £452m of fresh investment to support inclusive and sustainable growth across the Borderlands region and is anticipated to boost the region’s economy by £1.1 billion and create 5,500 additional job opportunities. It is the cross-border growth Deal in the UK.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

The Borderlands Partnership was formed because it felt “natural” for those local authorities to come together. From a geographic perspective, the Borderlands is a huge, mainly rural, region larger in size than Wales. It has a population of around 1.1 million people and is within 2 hours drive time of 14 million people across the cities of the central belt of Scotland and the northern English cities. Facing shared challenges and opportunities it made sense for the local authorities to work together more strategically; however existing administrative boundaries and different legal frameworks and policy contents didn’t support such activities due to the north/south England/Scotland border and east/west regional structures in England.

The Partnership is addressing the shared challenges of the region to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth through the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal (the Deal). The challenges include lack of full digital connectivity; high employment in low-wage industries and difficulties travelling within the region (even though transport links to the region from major cities in Scotland and England are generally good). The three key challenges which will be directly addressed by the Deal are:

• Narrowing the productivity gap
• Increasing the working age population
• Delivering inclusive growth, by addressing digital exclusion; the earnings gap and access to quality jobs and access to education

There was also a sense that the Borderlands region was not high on central government’s list of priority areas for funding, and the region risked missing out on opportunities and investment if the local authorities did not take action. All these factors helped bring the local authorities together as a formal partnership and jointly develop a strategy.

There was strong political support for the Borderlands partnership. One of the partnership’s keys to success is that politicians of all parties – Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and SNP – saw its work as positive for the region. The initial proposition of the Partnership was accepted and encouraged by both the UK and the Scottish Government.

The Deal is a unique rural deal, both in content and development. The UK and Scottish Governments took a “co-development approach” to the Deal, meaning that they worked with the Borderlands Partnership to populate the deal with projects and programmes in a way which could draw in funding from multiple, complementary sources and meet the nuanced policy differences in England and Scotland. In content, the Deal is unique because of its mixture of projects and programmes and complementary funding mix from UK Government departments and Scottish Government. This was required to ensure similar activities occurred in England and Scotland whether this was a matter devolved to the Scottish Government or retained by the UK Government.

The nature of the Borderlands also challenges preconceptions around scale of interventions with activities such as the Place Programme emphasising the need for smaller-scale, locally owned investments within the larger scale ‘programme’ of investment. This can achieve significant impact but in a way which is difficult to capture in traditional value for money/impact measures and KPIs.
The Partnership set up (and still maintains and chairs) a liaison group with the UK and Scottish Governments, embedding the co-development approach into delivery of the Deal. This will continue to respond to emerging challenges in delivery and develop solutions as required throughout the lifetime of the Deal

The Partnership has not been without challenges. As a cross-border partnership, balancing the priorities of the UK and Scottish Governments has required diplomacy and consensus from all sides, but this has been greatly assisted by the liaison group and the strong political support behind the partnership and deal. Resources are also a challenge as the partner local authorities are generally small and rural, so they do not have large budgets to fall back on.

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Year: 2021
Level of government: Local government


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