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The vision behind the Policy Angel Service means our clients choose and pay for only the services they need, when and for only as long as they need them. Policy experts and consultants cover a range of specialisms to provide a packaged service: For example, 10 days’ work from a lead consultant, 2 days from a communications expert and a day’s work each from training, transport or EU advisers.


Changing the centre of economic gravity

November 2012: Aidan Stradling writes

When Alex Salmond MSP, the First Minister of Scotland, came to speak at the North East Economic Forum in Newcastle in November 2012, he was still glowing from the signing with UK Prime Minister David Cameron a few days earlier of the Edinburgh Agreement. This set out the way forward for holding a referendum in Scotland on independence.

But Mr Salmond’s message to North East England’s business and council leaders was not one of cosy co-operation with London. Far from it. He clearly blamed the UK government’s removal of economic and influencing structures in the English regions for the regions’ very demise. He robustly defended his championing of Scottish development and growth. And any ‘poaching’ of investment and jobs from England was the fault of Westminster’s refusal to devolve power over regional spending, not his for being proactive for Scotland.

Rare praise, however, was reserved for Lord Heseltine. The Conservative peer’s report on decentralisation of funding for growth drew Salmond’s support, in as much as the prosperity of English regions was good for Scotland. But moving the economic decision-making away from London, not only if Scottish independence got the go-ahead, but also to empower English regions, was the key issue in changing these islands’ centre of economic gravity.

Top down, not bottom up

In response to questions about transport - road, rail and air – the First Minister set out a different vision for policy. Instead of waiting for London to make up its mind on High Speed Rail up England’s east coast and upgrading the North East’s main road, the A1, to a motorway, we should look to the north and build on what Scotland was planning.

As Scotland’s own plans developed for High Speed Rail between Glasgow and Edinburgh, North East England should be preparing to link itself to the Edinburgh end. If it did not, then the North West would not be far behind in seeking to deliver its own Manchester-Glasgow connection. Of course, an existing infrastructure would have a significant impact on and influence over any decisions that London subsequently made about the speed and routing of its transport links to northern England.

This top down (from Edinburgh), rather than bottom up (from London) approach brought a whole new dimension to policy making – a sort of inverted centralisation, where the tail wagged the policy dog. But if that made better policy more quickly, and brought the economic benefits to the regions of England before the centralised decision-making processes had caught up, then that was no-one’s loss and the regions’ significant gain.

Aidan Stradling attended the meeting of the North East Economic Forum on 13 November 2012 in Newcastle, at which the Rt Hon Alex Salmond MSP was the speaker.

The report 'Borderland: Assessing the implications of a more autonomous Scotland for the north of England' was published by think tank IPPR North on 13/11/12. Download a copy from their website here.

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North East Economic Forum

Alex Salmond MSP

Lord Heseltine

Road to the North

Is 25p a day too much to safeguard our food supply?

February 2012: Aidan Stradling writes

According to the European Commission, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) costs each EU citizen 25p a day. Some 40% of what the EU spends goes on CAP, though this is down from around 70% in the 1980s. Reforms have clearly made a difference, and there are more to come.

I recently visited Cumbria, England’s most north-westerly county. Being largely rural in nature, Cumbria has a lot of farmers. A significant challenge for EU policy makers over the years has been to design a programme for agriculture that fairly and effectively supports both the large landowners with big industrial agro-businesses and the micro family-run farms with a couple of fields or a few sheep or cows. This distinction is all the more sharp when you take into account the differing nature of agriculture and farm ownership across the EU.

The EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Cioloş, knows this distinction well from his native Romania. Yet his plans for further reform have ruffled feathers in the UK’s House of Lords. Peers want a larger proportion of CAP money spent on research and innovation. This is all part of an effort to refocus support away from how much and what food is produced and towards stewardship of the countryside, only part of which involves producing food.

Farmers, like any other business people, know that flexibility and diversification are keys to success in the marketplace. Erecting a large cowshed may contribute to effective beef production; but it could reduce village and farmhouse income from tourism in places where people will pay for a nice view from their holiday cottage and no countryside ‘aromas’. Many farms now have another string to their bow, be it a farm shop selling much more than a farm’s own produce, a fencing service, tractor maintenance or a dog kennel.

Our 25p a day is, perhaps, therefore not just being spent on safeguarding our food supply. It is contributing also to a diverse economy and wider employment opportunities.

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Steweardship of the countryside

Commissioner in Cluj

Squeeze on funding as East meets West

January 2012: Aidan Stradling, Policy Angel Network consultant, writes

The global economic downturn has affected everyone across Europe; but not in the same way. In the UK, borrowing money from a bank has become more difficult and more expensive, yet it is still much easier and much cheaper than in, say, Ukraine or Bulgaria.

Many organisations and businesses raise funds from selling their services or goods, taking on investment, or – in the case of the voluntary sector – relying on donations. Borrowing from a bank is usually the last option of choice. However, with yield, turnover, investment and donations all down in recent months, the trip to see the bank manager has become as necessary – and often as unpleasant – as a trip to the dentist.

What can you do, though, if the bank is no longer there? Some high profile bank failures have characterised the economic crash, but now several Western European banks are pulling out of Central and Eastern Europe. A recent report claims that 12 out of the 16 key western banks in Eastern Europe have scaled back their operations there.

I was recently working with a client in Ukraine on a project that needed significant, but short-term, funding. With any approach to a bank likely to be either unsuccessful or unaffordable, we needed to identify other sources. The success of future fundraising efforts will, however, depend not only on the availability of credit and its price, but the strength or otherwise of currencies such as the Romanian Leu and the Ukrainian Hryvnia. That in turn depends on the scope for economic growth. Being outside the Eurozone may well turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Interested in working with our Policy Angel Network members? Call Aidan Stradling Consultancy on 0789 506 6823 (UK).

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Which way for Ukraine?

Policy cornucopia

November 2010 - Aidan Stradling writes:

The days of plenty for multi-millionaire land owners and huge agro-businesses may be numbered; and the plight of small farmers and smallholders may be eased. At least that is the vision set out by the EU in its latest proposals for reform of the widely-dreaded Common Agricultural Policy.

The CAP currently accounts for around half of all EU funding, and is one of the policy ‘hot potatoes’ in Europe’s basket of issues. On 18 November 2010, the European Commission issued a ‘Communication’, which is its way of setting out a proposed route for a policy. The contents of the Communication will now be examined by Member State governments, the European Parliament and interested parties who will all give their views and suggestions in due course.

In fact, the UK’s House of Lords debated the topic that very day, leading to a call from North East England Labour peer Baroness Quin that no time had been given to prepare. Earlier this year, Baroness Quin outlined her thoughts on the UK parliamentary system in her book ‘The British Constitution: Continuity and Change – an insider’s view’. As a former MEP and UK government Minister for Europe, her account recognises well the European context within which governance takes place.

Over the next months, the EU’s Committee of the Regions will have the chance to offer the Commission, the European Council and the Parliament its official ‘Opinions’ on CAP reform. Whether you are a farmer, haulier, accountant or consumer, you will be affected by, yet still have the opportunity to influence, the outcome of this policy development process. Interested? Just ask me how.

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A sheep

The British Constitution by Joyce Quin (2010)

Open regional borders

November 2010 - Aidan Stradling writes:

In England, regions have been all but abolished. With the demise of regional development agencies and government offices for the regions, England is set to become one of the most centrally governed parts of Europe. A recent article in Newcastle's Journal newspaper suggested this had not gone unnoticed in Brussels.

Of course, local authorities in towns, cities and counties across England can now work in partnership with their neighbours under a new scheme, and several of these groupings have now been established. Most seem to be based around so-called 'city regions', but large swathes of the country are still not covered by them.

Does this offer an opportunity hitherto unavailable? Could we now see the sort of cross-border co-operation that seemed too complicated in the past? While the EU-inspired and delightfully-named NUTS regions will continue to focus EU funding into segments of England, perhaps we now have the chance to cross that unwritten policy divide. Let me explain:

Newcastle lies just a couple of hours' drive from the delights of the Lake District, yet Newcastle Airport has not been promoted internationally as a gateway to this attractive area. Why? Well, the regional development agency in England's North East (covering Newcastle Airport) never wished to tread on the toes of its counterpart in England's North West (covering the Lake District). Hence Manchester Airport was instead seen as the gateway to the Lakes. Under the new arrangements for economic development, rather less now stands in the way should such a cross-border link-up be desirable for both parties.

This could open the way for a range of cross-border initiatives and co-operation: Rural areas of Northumberland, County Durham, North Yorkshire and Cumbria working together on community transport; Hampshire and Dorset co-operating on sharing economic development between Southampton and Bournemouth; or Oxfordshire (South East), Warwickshire (West Midlands) and Northamptonshire (East Midlands) pooling resources for local services. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for England’s regional ‘iron curtains’ to draw back.

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The Lake District

The border crossing is open

Evidence makes policy, so don’t be shy!

September 2010 - Aidan Stradling writes:

Evidence is an essential part of making policy. It can come from, e.g., consulting stakeholders, evaluating past activity or from research. Many policy makers would be surprised to learn the extent to which their actions are scrutinised by academics, and to which their motives, methodology and merit are analysed. At the same time, academics may underestimate the value that their work can have in making the policy development process both easier and in justifying its outcomes.

The UK-based University Association for Contemporary European Studies (UACES) recently held its 40th anniversary conference at the College of Europe in Bruges. Over 200 research papers were presented in a series of panels over three days. I chaired a panel on ‘Regionalism and Cities’. Both the three papers presented, and the questions and discussion that followed, showed a thirst for the kind of evidence that practitioners need to make good policy. The current focus on macro-regions, sub-regions and city-regions would be enhanced and enriched by incorporating this type of evidence into its policy development alongside equally thorough evaluation and consultation.

This is a chance for researchers and policy makers to bridge that gap. So, come on! Don’t be shy!

As a policy maker practitioner, I’m afraid I struggled to understand some of the academic-speak in use. If you can translate any of these terms I heard into policy-maker speak, please contact me .

  • Ideational
  • Actorness
  • A narrow conception of causality
  • Metatheoretical
  • Problematising
  • Securitization

In return, I will happily give you my translation of the EU policy maker-speak term ‘territorial cohesion’.

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The UACES conference

The College of Europe campus in Bruges

Policy Angel Conference Service

August 2010 - Aidan Stradling writes:

Attending a conference, meeting or industry event can often mean several days’ worth of preparation, absence from the office and follow-up. With current time pressures, that can mean difficult decisions. One of our Policy Angel specialists can do all the hard work for you, allowing you to concentrate on your core work back at the office.

Our Policy Angel Conference Service includes:

  • An initial meeting with you and/or colleagues to identify objectives
  • Registration and submission of text for conference materials
  • Research and preparation time
  • Pre-event communication and networking
  • Attendance, including our travel and subsistence
  • Networking on behalf of your organisation
  • Distribution of your literature
  • Follow-up with contacts made
  • A full report, with recommendations, tailored to your objectives
  • An all-inclusive one-off fee, which you can charge to your research or project budget, rather than your T&S

For an outline quote and to discuss possibilities, contact us here or call 0789 506 6823.

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Committee of the Regions

Czech networking

UK consults on the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN–T)

August 2010 - David Marshall, Director, Spatial Synergy Ltd, writes:

The UK government’s Department for Transport has recently launched a consultation on the ‘Future of the Trans-European,Transport Network (TEN-T)’. This aims to collect views from interested parties in the UK on the issues raised by the European Commission in its own consultation on the future of TEN-T, in particular what methodology to use to update the TEN-T maps. It also seeks views on how to improve the efficiency of the future TEN-T programme.

The Trans European Network – Transport (TEN-T) Programme funds transport infrastructure projects on a set of defined networks to support the Single Market. It covers:

  • major road (motorways and some trunk roads) and rail routes
  • significant airports
  • ports
  • inter-modal terminals and
  • traffic management systems covering the air, road, rail, and inland waterways

Following the launch in February 2009 of the European Commission’s Green Paper, preliminary work showed that the existing network should be more efficient, integrated and focused on objectives such as the environment and growth. The Commission is seeking views about the methodology for reviewing the current TEN-T programme, its policy objectives and the TEN-T financing instruments. Current guidelines call for a gradual development to 2020 by integrating land, sea and air transport infrastructure networks.

The starting point for the European Commission is that the existing TEN-T routes should interact as a network, rather than a series of isolated European routes. To achieve this, the Commission proposes that the future TEN-T network should follow a dual layer approach, recognising that the TEN-T programme represents a national as well as a European dimension.

However, the last UK government’s plans to define the national network are still awaited. A policy vacuum now exists following the abolition of the Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) which provided a transport framework at sub-national level.

These Strategies have helped resolve issues in the past where the TEN-T routes didn’t coincide with national routes. For example, in north east England, the trans-Pennine corridor between Newcastle and Carlisle was part of a TEN-T but not part of the defined UK national network.

Given the dismantling of regional structures, it will be important that local authorities and other interested parties get together both to respond to this as well as to ensure future funding potential from the European Union for these key routes..

For more information and advice contact David Marshall or Aidan Stradling here or call 0789 506 6823.

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David Marshall, Spatial Synergy

North Norfolk Railway

Maastricht railway station

Survey shows known unknowns

June 2010 - Aidan Stradling writes:

We know that the changes in the Lisbon Treaty will affect our work, but we're not too sure how. A recent survey of participants prior to our seminar in Newcastle showed that for most people, the impact of those changes was either mixed or unknown.

Those taking part came from the public, private and voluntary sectors and academia. Over half thought the Treaty would impact their work in some way, while others had yet to find out. For most people, the impact would be medium or minimal.

Other findings showed that in North East England, we used EU laws and regulations in our work, but made little effort to influence future legislation. Around 70% of respondents worked with EU rules, while 39% had briefed or lobbied politicians or EU institutions. Some 57% had had no contact with our region's MEPs, rising to 82% who had no knowledge of or links with our Committee of the Regions members. International links were represented, as 36% had done some work with the region's diplomatic corps of Honorary Consuls.

To find out more about how to make the Lisbon Treaty changes work for you and for your organisation, contact us here or call 0789 506 6823.

Lisbon survey

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Whitley Bay Prom

New landscape for European regions

April 2010: Aidan Stradling, Policy Angel Network consultant, writes

The advent of spring in Brussels has brought with it new blooms. While the European Parliament and Commission settle in their new membership and structures, the wind of change has blown a new raft of regional politicians in too. The EU's Committee of the Regions launched its new mandate in February 2010. Under the Lisbon Treaty, their term of office has risen from four to five years, and with it their confidence. It would be fair to say that the views of the Committee of the Regions have long been overlooked; indeed its very existence is a surprise to many. But the political leaders of regional governments from across the EU are keener than ever to have their voices heard. After all, it is they who will be implementing seventy per cent of the laws the EU passes.

In countries like the UK, regions have become less fashionable. The post-nuptial glow of the parliament and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has been replaced by a workaday resolve to get on with the job; in England, the failed attempts at regionalisation in recent years have heralded a new impetus for city regions. Elsewhere in Europe, the recession has focussed minds on national priorities.

In the past, the European Parliament and the Council have lent a cursory ear to advisory bodies; now, in the post-Lisbon landscape, both the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee have been given a louder voice.

Interested in working with our Policy Angel Network members? Call Aidan Stradling Consultancy on 0789 506 6823 (UK).

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Dutch German border

Aidan Stradling

Europe 2020 – a new strategy for European recovery is launched

March 2010: Glynis Whiting, Director of WhitingEaton Associates, Brussels, writes

With the new European Commission and European Parliament now in place for the next five years, Commission President Barroso has just set out his long-awaited vision for the next decade in “Europe 2020: A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” (published 3 March 2010). Europe 2020

The strategy aims to address the long term global challenges posed by the current economic crisis across Europe. It has three interlinked priorities for the European economy:

  • Smart growth – based on knowledge and innovation
  • Sustainable growth – resource efficient, greener and more competitive
  • Inclusive growth – balancing aims for high employment with social cohesion across all of Europe
  • Unlike the Commission’s previous “Lisbon agenda” in 2000, which had the high ambition of making Europe “the most dynamic knowledge based economy in the world by 2010”, but lacked detail and arguably largely failed, this time there are limited targets for employment, R&D, climate change/energy, education and poverty reduction.

    Initiatives cover support for access to finance, youth, high speed internet, the shift to a low carbon economy, business, skills, and tackling poverty. Barroso knows that only full commitment at the national level will get the strategy off the ground – and goodwill from national governments is very stretched by their pressing problems at home.

    The first hurdle will be the European Council meeting later this month (March 2010), with final approval sought in June.

    Is it important? Europe 2020 will set the scene for difficult debates over the next EU budget period after 2013. Who will be the winners and losers? We will be watching with interest – as will many regions across Europe.

    Interested in working with our Policy Angel Network members? Call Aidan Stradling Consultancy on 0789 506 6823 (UK) or contact Glynis Whiting direct on +32 2 772 0305.

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    Glynis Whiting