CLES has been at the forefront of local economic policy research and analysis for the last thirty years.
Our formulation, in the early 1980s, was driven by the then Deputy Leader of the Greater London Council (GLC) and a small number of other metropolitan authorities across England. They recognised the need for a politically independent, alternative voice, based outside of London, to challenge the prevailing policy orthodoxy of market led economic development.
FYI a few tech issues still to be resolved with the timeline – I know it needs to start with 1985, not now – HP
CLES’s business model shifted through the 2010s. While the organisation continues to have members and to undertake tendered consultancy work, CLES now attracts increasing grant resource from charitable foundations and the work we undertake with members and clients is focused upon stimulating action and real policy change.
The 2007-8 global financial crisis and consequent austerity budgeting cuts for local government had a significant impact on both the market for consultancy and the urgency of CLES’s work: while the organisations CLES had been working were often no longer in a position to continue financing that work, the need for CLES’s input was ever more acute.
During the 2000s introduced a range of new products, including the regular publication Local Work and a training programme for officers in local government and expanded beyond economic development and regeneration to undertake work around other themes, especially health and well-being. Activities also expanded beyond local government to work with regeneration agencies, Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), voluntary and community sector organisations and housing associations, amongst others.
During the 90s, CLES continued to undertake membership work, but expanded its reach by establishing the CLES European Research Network, which enabled CLES to undertake activities beyond the remit of membership payments and to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of new policy, particularly relating to the emergence of area based regeneration schemes such as the City Challenge and Single Regeneration Budget.
Our first office opened in Manchester in 1986. From this base, the CLES team serviced the membership base with briefings, events and research. Activities focussed primarily on responding to the challenges then facing members (particularly unemployment) by offering new and innovative responses.
CLES was officially launched in Norwich in February 1986, as a membership organisation to provide support and policy research to the beleaguered local government economic development officers of the day. The five founding member metropolitan authorities were joined, in subsequent years, by other local authorities who paid an annual membership fee based upon the size of their populations.