Westminster Social Policy Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Next steps for English towns - priorities for growth, infrastructure, and implementing Town Deals


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This timely conference will assess the next steps for English towns.

Areas for discussion include:

  • priorities for Town Deals,
  • developing housing and transport infrastructure, and
  • supporting economic growth.

We also expect discussion on the strategies and support needed by towns, those who live and work in them, and their local economies, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.

Areas of focus include:

  • citizen wellbeing, and services and public spaces - and lessons going forward for how these have been supported and maintained during the crisis,
  • employment - with communities with reliance on particular industries such as aviation and engineering being hardest hit, and
  • high streets - particularly what can learned from how small businesses have adapted to continue to play a key role in their communities during lockdown, and the way forward to wider recovery.

Why this is relevant: the context:

It takes place with:

  • Government initiatives aimed at reviving local econoimies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
  • Recently announced funding for Business Improvement Districts aimed at help town centres and high streets through the pandemic;
  • The UK2070 Commission on city and regional inequalities in the UK preparing a progress report, following their final report in February included recommendations to:
    • invest in connectivity, and
    • strengthen the local economies of disadvantaged towns.
  • Government accelerating its plans for regenerating English towns - as 100 places are chosen to take part in new Town Deals;
  • Formation of Town Deal Boards, with Government expecting to receive Town Investment Plans by summer 2020;
  • Introduction of a ‘Towns Hub’ within MHCLG - seeking to help local communities draft their investment plans and share best practice, as well as:
    • a new advisory panel - to include a range of entrepreneurs and industry experts - geared towards helping government deliver its policy agenda, and
    • the Town of the Year competition - designed to shine a light on the individual achievements of English towns.
  • MHCLG announcing that ‘hundreds of millions’ of the £1bn Future High Streets Fund will be invested across England in 2020; and
  • A planned National Bus Strategy to be published later this year following the announcement of £5bn to develop bus and cycle links for every region outside London.

Key areas for discussion:

  • Maximising impact of the Towns Fund and the deals, and how they can best be structured and implemented to regenerate towns and coastal communities, including:
    • the role and make up of Town Deal Boards - to be made up of a cross-section of stakeholders in the public, private and voluntary sectors,
    • Town Investment Plans - setting out evidence-based investment requirements, and aligning with local industrial strategies and other local plans,
    • A case study in successful town regeneration projects - with a contribution from - Dr Kris Declercq, Mayor, Roeselare, Belgium and President, West-Vlaamse Intercommunale, and
    • A case study on the first ‘Town Deal’ - the story from Greater Grimsby - with a contribution from - Rob Walsh, Chief Executive, North East Lincolnshire Council.
  • Planning and place-making - priorities when regenerating English towns in the context of:
    • the forthcoming Accelerated Planning White Paper - which sets out government plans to speed up the planning system, and
    • revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework - implemented last year.
  • Improving what towns offer their communities and visitors, including:
    • priorities for the Cultural Renewal Taskforce as they help plan the reopening of the UK’s recreation and leisure sector,
    • provision of local services - following the Local Government secretary announcing increased funding for local authorities for the next financial year of £49.2bn,
    • protecting and developing cultural heritage - with introduction of the £250m Culture Investment Fund - designed to support libraries, museums and other cultural projects.
  • Infrastructure - what more can be done to meet the housing and transport needs of towns and their surrounding areas:
    • improving transport connections, reliability and bus services, following the Budget and ahead of the National Bus Strategy due later this year, and
    • ensuring that housing is appropriate and optimally located to support economic growth.
  • English high streets and local retailers - priorities for regeneration - especially in light of the COVID-19 crisis but also with the Future High Streets Fund - whereby 101 areas have been chosen to apply for up to £25m worth of funding.

The agenda:

  • The policy outlook for English Towns;
  • Supporting prosperity and learning from successful town regeneration projects;
  • Case study - developing a town deal;
  • Priorities for making best use of the Towns Fund, developing Town Investment Plans and linking with Local Industrial Strategies;
  • Meeting the housing needs of local communities and making sure the right type of housing is in the right place;
  • Developing local transport networks, improving bus services and integrating services effectively;
  • Improving accessibility to greenspace and its contribution toward the health of local communities; and
  • The future for supporting vibrant, healthy and distinct communities - culture, regeneration and opportunity.

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

It’s certainly the case with this one. Places have been reserved by officials from MHCLG; BEIS; the Cities & Local Growth Unit; DCMS; Defra; the Department for International Trade; the Department for Transport; HM Revenue & Customs; the Office for National Statistics; the Office of Government Property and the Office for Product Safety and Standards.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

Shortly after every Westminster Social Policy Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates