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Tracking local funding - a new project with JRF

The economic and productivity imbalance across the UK is not a recent issue, and successive governments have tried different approaches over the decades. The Local Growth Fund was created to help restore balance by awarding money to those projects designed to support economic growth. This took the form of improvements to infrastructure to unlock 'dead time' in traffic jams, or building new academic institutions to foster more skills and talent, or even developing integrated transport systems so that people can better access education, employment, and cultural activities. But this funding has a shelf-life - it is due to end in 2021. With added uncertainty surrounding European Union structural funding, a new Prime Minister and a much anticipated spending review, questions are now being asked about what support for local growth will be in place and if it will be robust enough to boost living standards and meet the ambitions of local areas.

In a new collaborative project with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, ODI Leeds will be working to create a visual 'dashboard' that can summarise local growth funding across the UK and aid analysis of the future needs of projects. By looking at current and historical spending periods, we can calculate how much local growth funding would need to be a part of future spending reviews. We will also explore where the UK sits internationally in terms of local/regional funding, comparing it with other OECD countries.

Despite the political and financial sensitivity of this project, we will be working in the open. We take a 'radically open' approach to our projects where we share our data sources, our methods, our code, etc. This enables others to reach in, contribute, and improve without asking permission. We've started by putting our research so far on Github. Current sources of useful and relevant data include:

  • Public Sector Statistical Analyses - published by HM Treasury and have National Statistics status. They detail how much is spent, by NUTS1 region, on what, for every year since about 1998. Spending is split into capital and current, and into sectors such as 'transport'. Data is only available in spreadsheets.
  • The Eurostat database has many excellent datasets on science and technology. Of particular interest is Intramural R&D expenditure (GERD) by sectors of performance and NUTS 2 regions. We have written scripts to parse CSV downloads of this data in C#, but the data is also available via an API which we need to learn to use.
  • Country and regional analysis is published by HM Treasury and have National Statistics status. They are available as Excel spreadsheets.
  • The ESPRESSO tool by Greater Manchester Combined Authority which has already done much of the work on this project and is openly licensed, allowing us to re-use it. This will require significant work to repeat existing data processing algorithms in the Excel spreadsheet in another language (C#, Javascript, Python, R, etc...)
  • The Heseltine "No Stone Unturned" report which is just a PDF but refers to other work that may give us some ideas.

Is there anything missing from the research so far? Data sources that were overlooked, or existing projects that could help shed some light on the direction we could take, people who have data that should be involved. We're working in the open with this project so we welcome contributions, either to the GitHub or to this Google Doc.