This article is taken from ‘Building a vibrant night time economy’, a report published by LGiU and Portman Group in July 2016.
A vibrant night time economy brings with it many benefits. It is estimated to be worth £66bn a year to the UK economy and employs 1.3m people, so there is great potential for councils to tap into this value for their area. It boosts local businesses by attracting visitors from out of town to spend money in the centre, without fear of becoming a victim of crime. Young people are more likely to stick around after they finish their education if they have a diverse range of nightlife options, preventing a ‘brain drain’ in the local workforce. It provides opportunities for children and teenagers to socialise that do not revolve around alcohol. It reduces the burden on police and A&E resources through preventative rather than reactive approaches.
The phrase ‘night time economy’ may conjure in your mind images of hedonistic, alcohol-fuelled chaos, underage drinking and violent crime. And within your council, it may be synonymous with high spending on policing, emergency services and enforcement.
However many areas that have been plagued by problems caused by their night time economy have pulled off remarkable transformations. By pulling together several council departments, agencies, charities, schools and local businesses in partnership to tackle the problems associated with the night time economy from many angles, these places are now vibrant places to live, visit and work.
This trailblazing work is happening all over the country, responding to particular local needs and challenges, but often their stories are not shared wider than their own community. There is a danger that councils use their limited resources re-inventing solutions that are already working elsewhere. We need to link councils into a broader conversation to share best practice between them; the recent Home Office Modern Crime Prevention Strategy went a long way towards doing this. Instead of designing a bespoke solution in every neighbourhood, councils should be able to pick and choose from a range of ideas that others have already pioneered and found to be effective.
As local authorities begin the shift to full business rate retention by 2020, the success of the local economy will increasingly become intertwined with councils’ ability to fund their services. In this context, the night time economy could either be a burden or an opportunity for councils. Much of the focus of existing projects in this space has been collaboration with local businesses – small and large, both retailers and venues – to present a united front to troublemakers and promote a safe recreational environment.
This kind of hands-on partnership between councils and their local business community will become necessary across all departments going forward; and there is a lot of momentum within local authorities to bring the local economy into focus within its strategy. A mutually beneficial project around the night time economy could provide a great opportunity to start building those relationships on a positive footing and with a common goal.
One of the major challenges for those wanting to get started in their area is that the issues emerging from the night time economy are dealt with in a fragmented way, by different people with different priorities and with little direct oversight. In some cases Police and Crime Commissioners are taking up this mantle, because of the impact on their resources, or it will fall to the Town Centre Manager. Others are looking at appointing ‘night time economy champions’, or even ‘Night Time Mayors’, to act as a single point of accountability for the overarching strategy.
There could be opportunities within the devolution conversations to design in specific oversight of the night time economy, that could perhaps fall within the remit of a directly-elected mayor. Whatever the local circumstances, politically and structurally, finding someone who can effectively bring together the disparate actors with a stake in the night time economy is key.
As ever, the first step is always the hardest. For those pioneers within councils who want to get their night time economy strategy off the ground, this report provides them with the advice and resources to get things started. Change will not happen overnight, but a vibrant night time economy will bring far-reaching and enduring benefits to the local community that will be worth the effort and investment.
Read the full report, including 5 recommendations illustrated by case studies, here: Building a Vibrant Night Time Economy