Solihull’s place leadership in a global crisis
This case study, provided by the Local Government Association, focuses on Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s recovery planning during the Covid-19 crisis. It covers challenges faced around continuing to revitalise its town and local centres despite the pandemic, and commitment to ‘leadership of place’. It also outlines how the Council responded by adopting the IPM’s Covid-19 Recovery Framework, in order to respond to immediate threats and enable longer-term recovery from the pandemic.
This case study, provided by the Local Government Association, focuses on Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s recovery planning during the Covid-19 crisis. It covers challenges faced by Solihull brought about by the pandemic, the strategies put in place for immediate responses and longer-term recovery, and the key outcomes of this approach, which other places might learn from. As with other high streets and town centres all over the world, as the authors explain, “in mid-March, across Solihull Borough and the rest of the United Kingdom, town centres closed down overnight and the Council was left considering how to progress its long-term plans whilst preparing in the short-term the reopening and immediate recovery of its communities”. The pandemic, therefore, brought about a range of significant challenges to the Council and the places it represents, including the following:
- how to adapt and advance its existing commitment to revitalising its towns and local centres.
- how to retain the Council’s strategic commitment to fostering ‘leadership of place’.
- how to maintain the identity position of Solihull Borough as being integral to the economic vitality of the West Midlands.
In order to both respond to immediate threats to the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull (e.g. lockdown and retail closures), and shape longer-term pandemic recovery plans, the Council adopted and adapted the Institute of Place Management’s Covid-19 Recovery Framework. By drawing upon this framework, the Council were able to take the following steps:
- worked collaboratively with existing local partnerships to respond quickly to immediate issues, and form longer-term visions.
- agreed on several short-term actions to aid town centre recovery, such as one-way systems and signage, signposting businesses to support, applying for financial support, clear communications, creating task teams and coordinating local groups, and embedding ongoing monitoring and evaluation.
- reopened town centres in a safe and welcoming way once lockdown restrictions were eased.
- created a longer-term vision through the ‘reset’ Council plan for 2020-2025 and the Covid-19 economic recovery plan.
As a result of collaboratively and strategically implementing the above solutions, the Council were, in turn, able to achieve the following to encourage future recovery and transformation from the Covid-19 pandemic:
- foster more collaborative partnership working and develop stronger place leadership through identifying local business ‘champions’ and joint activities.
- establish a shared vision for each locality within the wider borough.
- embed data and evidence in decision-making by monitoring the changing retail economy and developing place managers’ and the Council’s analytical capacity.