By John MathersToday’s Queen’s speech offered more detail on how the new government plans to fulfil its ambitions. I believe design has a critical role to play in helping deliver many of the proposed initiatives, particularly in the key areas of devolution, housing and public services.
Devolution and cities The Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill aims to fulfil the government’s commitments on devolving powers to boost local growth in England, and would initiate plans to build the ‘Northern Powerhouse’. The bill will provide the necessary framework for the Greater Manchester City Deal, and for other Local Growth Deals designed to empower towns and counties. From our work on the ground, we know that insufficient infrastructure and a lack of affordable housing is limiting the potential of towns and cities across the country. Design Council’s new Cities Programme is helping to address these complex challenges by bringing forward much needed developments. We will continue to work with the government, cities in the north and across the country, to create more successful, prosperous places.Housing The Housing Bill proposes welcome measures to tackle the housing crisis. It is critical that these new initiatives increase not only the supply of housing but the quality of what is built. Interestingly, research shows that 73 per cent of people support the building of more homes in their neighbourhoods if the homes are well-designed and in keeping with the local area (NHPAU, 2010). To achieve better quality, we believe three things need to be present: a proactive planning process, the involvement of local communities and the peer review of new schemes. Design Council will continue to work closely with all participants involved in the planning process – local authorities, developers and communities – to maximise the potential of new developments. Public Services The draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill proposes creating a single public service ombudsman. This new body would aim to identify problems and inform effective responses. Even with reduced government spending, design can have a major impact in this area. Services that are designed with real users in mind and that employ design methodologies are generally better and more efficient. Many of our Design Challenges have explored ways to solve difficult public service problems, and we’ve seen some great results. For example, our Reducing Violence and Aggression in A&E work saw threatening body language and aggressive behaviour fall by 50 per cent, while for every £1 spent on the design solutions, £3 was generated in benefits. However, innovating at the margins will only get us so far. To realise the full potential of design, it needs to be embedded at a strategic level, just as many leading businesses are doing. This requires a braver approach from the government. Design is a means, not an end in itself. And I do not suggest that it is a cure-all. It is simply an approach that helps identify the real issues at play, allows for difficult problems to be reframed in practical ways, and results in more appropriate and effective solutions. We look forward to working with the new government and helping to create a sustainable future for Britain.
I encourage cities across the country to look at how they could use – and benefit from – the Design Council’s new Cities Programme to help deliver housing and infrastructure, at pace and as set out in their city deals. Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government