Working with government to bring town investment plans to life

Challenge

The Towns Fund is at the heart of the government’s ambition to levelling up places which have historically lacked investment and opportunity, enabling economic growth and regeneration. To support towns with securing and delivering the Town Deals, The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) appointed a delivery partner. It also represented a new way of working for government that of itself would help inform the shape of future funding delivery models and programmes.

The Towns Fund Delivery Partner is a consortium of six private sector organisations working as one with each fulfilling distinct strategic functions and bringing specialist expertise. Arup as consortium lead and with a multi-disciplinary role across the programme and service delivery, was supported by: Nichols Group leading on management and operations; Copper Consultancy as communications and engagement lead; FutureGov, learning and experience, governance and leadership lead; Grant Thornton, funding and investment, monitoring and evaluation, data insight lead; and Savills providing specialist place-based expertise.

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Insight

Putting the town’s needs first was key. Based upon a town-centric and continuous learning approach to understand towns’ challenges, what they needed and when, the Towns Fund Delivery Partner was able to design and refine the support it offered as the programme progressed. It delivered advice and support at a range of levels that aimed to add value rather than duplicating resources already available to towns.

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Overall Strategy

Working alongside the Towns Fund central team and Cities and Local Growth Unit Area Leads, the Towns Fund Delivery Partner was committed to the principle of co-design and co-working with Government. The Towns Fund Delivery Partner’s insights gleaned through its bottom-up approach, helped DLUHC develop its guidelines and requirements, identify the level and type of support provided to help towns that needed it most, and allowed for continuous improvement in delivery. A Total Towns Outcomes Framework questionnaire also gained understanding of towns’ longer-term priorities and desired outcomes.

Copper-Specific Support

We have been an integral member of the Towns Fund Delivery Partner’s strategic leadership group as lead advisor on its programme communications, working alongside the consortium team to deliver timely communication about the Towns Fund Delivery Partner’s services and support to towns. An ongoing commitment to understanding and anticipating both towns’ diverse needs and priorities, and in interpreting DLUHC’s requirements of towns in securing and delivering Town Deals, has been a necessity to manage a complex programme where towns are at different stages on the journey. We established and led the Communications and Messaging Working Group to facilitate a joint approach between the TFDP and DLUHC over the duration of Towns Fund Delivery Partner’s involvement in the Towns Fund.

Our expertise in effective community and stakeholder engagement, market positioning, brand development and use of social and other media has been drawn upon heavily by towns, firstly in developing their Town Investment Plans and then during early-stage Business Case development. This has been achieved through the creation of bespoke Towns Fund resources either as online guides, blogs and webinars or through one-to-one advice and coaching, Check and Challenge sessions and learning programmes such as Place Leadership and Making Connections Count.

Outcome

Between May 2020 and November 2021, the Towns Fund Delivery Partner helped towns across four cohorts to develop a vision for their towns, produce Town Investment Plans to secure Town Deal offers and provided early-stage support to develop Business Cases for agreed projects. At its height, the Towns Fund Delivery Partner had over 260 team members representing 13 disciplines and 16 topic areas across the breadth of the country.

Worth more than £2.4 billion, all 101 towns that were selected for the programme received their Town Deal offers, paving the way for the delivery of nearly 800 projects across England.

Challenge

RWE has ambitions to support the UK’s net zero goals and committed to investing £15bn in renewable generation in the UK. The business is rapidly changing, and we are tasked with helping the RWE team tell its evolving story.

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Insight

To achieve its aspirations and contribute to positive change, RWE needed to transform its narrative and reach strategic audiences to reposition itself in the UK as a leading supporter of the UK’s journey to net zero.

Supporting investment and development aspirations required better relationships with statutory, political and community stakeholders. RWE’s new strategy and its impact on the UK was largely unknown, and educating those with influence was critical. Positively influencing at a national, regional and local level was also on RWE’s agenda to secure a greater share of voice.

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Strategy

Our approach was a sustained, multi-channel communications campaign to illustrate and reiterate the new brand and corporate strategy. Evaluation of the brand through the assessment of media and stakeholder sentiment gave us insight into share of voice, reputation and impact and, in partnership with RWE, developed a new corporate positioning strategy.

Amplify

Already an integrated part of the RWE team, we developed a highly effective programme revolving around digital and social content laid the foundations for reaching critical audiences. Videos, animations, and graphics, delivered primarily via LinkedIn, visually bring RWE’s story to life. At the same time, we developed thought leadership pieces to begin to build RWE’s profile. Such assets supported our high-level media relations campaign and stakeholder engagement strategy designed to secure the attention of those most influential in the space.

Outcome

The strategy achieved significant success for RWE, launching it onto the national stage, contributing to key conversations around renewables. We secured agenda-setting coverage in the Financial Times, Daily Telegraph and the Scotsman, and the BBC and Reuters. Significant exposure activity combined with a focus on high-level stakeholder engagement culminated in RWE holding a prominent role in the UK investment summit hosted by the Prime Minister. While further afield, we secured regional engagement with Welsh and Scottish devolved authorities and influencers.

Perceptions of the RWE brand shifted, it enjoys a greater share of voice and significant influence in relation to renewable generation in the UK. RWE is still on this journey and we continue to provide strategic and tactical support.

Challenge

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is part of the Government’s strategy to keep the lights on in the UK. National Grid is building a high-voltage grid connection for the project, between Bridgwater and Seabank near Avonmouth. In 2009, we were tasked to develop and deliver a consultation strategy to support the Development Consent Order application. We have been retained ever since, taking this major project from planning through to construction. The project is in construction, and we continue to support National Grid and its contractors. Our team also works to protect and enhance National Grid’s reputation to leave a positive legacy for the project.

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Insight

Hinkley Point C is a nationally significant infrastructure project and a major investment in the region’s electricity network. However, there was significant local opposition to the proposals throughout the planning and development stages. This posed a risk to the project if it were to continue into the construction stage. We needed to switch the communications approach from ‘reactive’ to ‘proactive’ and reposition the narrative to concentrate on the project’s benefits.

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Strategy

We worked closely with National Grid’s team to identify and promote positive stories about the project. We used this as the foundation to develop and implement a sustainable programme of project communications. Ensuring that we met the formal requirements of the Development Consent Order.

To minimise the risks of project delays, opposition and criticism we provided clear and timely information to stakeholders about the work in their area. Quickly responding to any concerns. We devised procedures to inform and update local communities and other stakeholders about construction work. Additionally, informing them about the steps National Grid and its contractors take to reduce local impact. We also put processes in place to monitor the mood of local communities, allowing us to identify and respond rapidly to any emerging issues.

Amplify

Since construction started, we have communicated with more than 10,000 households. We also maintain and regular update a project website, making it the ‘go to’ place for stakeholders to learn the latest information. We have established positive relationships with local community groups and parish councils and use these links to help spread information as widely as possible. Should there be any concerns amongst the public, a responsive 24-hour contact centre service enables the local community to get a swift response.

Outcome

Despite the highly disruptive nature of the work, there is widespread public acceptance of the project. A minimal number of complaints have been received and no issues have been escalated by local residents or community stakeholders to the media or their elected members. These successes have given National Grid the confidence to reposition the project narrative going forward. In the future, communications and engagement will place an even greater emphasis on the positive impact and benefits National Grid will bring to the area over the next five years and beyond.

Overview

HyNet North West is an innovative carbon capture and hydrogen project to unlock a low carbon economy for the North West and North Wales. It will put the region at the forefront of the UK’s drive to net zero. By creating the UK’s first low-carbon hydrogen cluster, the project seeks to provide clean hydrogen energy for the future, de-carbonise the region’s heavy industry, protect existing jobs and create thousands of new ones.  

As the project moved towards a more public-facing stage, we were engaged to evolve the HyNet North West brand and tasked to create a communications campaign to support the launch of the public consultation for the first stage of the project.

Activity

Website

We developed the UI designs and redeveloped the HyNet webite, simplifying the navigation and streamlining information. We created a series of graphics and assets that could be utilised across multiple channels, as well as on the website.

Consultation hub

Sitting alongside the website, we developed a consultation microsite to support the first consultation on the HyNet North West project. The look and feel reflected the overarching HyNet brand.

Social

We develop social graphics to support HyNet’s key messages, encourage engagement and explain complex concepts to stakeholders and the public We develop social graphics to support HyNet’s key messages, encourage engagement and explain complex concepts to stakeholders and the public.

Animation

HyNet North West is made up of several different projects, the first of which is a carbon capture pipeline. We designed and delivered an animation to help explain key elements of the project in an accessible way, enabling people to easily respond to the project’s public consultation.

Outcome

The public responded very favourably to the campaign. There were more than 8,000 visits to the consultation hub website during the non-statutory consultation period, driven by promotional materials and social media.

We saw a marked increase in social media engagement across multiple channels, with Twitter seeing a 279% increase in impressions, LinkedIn experiencing a 303% increase in new followers and HyNet North West’s Facebook account having more than an 8,433% increase in engagement.

The campaign built a positive platform for future stages of consultation and engagement needed for HyNet North West to succeed.