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.
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.
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.
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.
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.