#Wearefailing is to help failing towns.

There is no single answer to our failing town centres; each town is different and needs a different set of solutions but one thing I have learnt from my 20+ year “troubleshooting” career, is that until an organization recognizes that it has a problem, gets it out-on-the-table and takes actions, the problem stands no chance of being solved.

In the case of (UK) town centres, this means that the head of the town council/local government and the local MP have to agree there is a problem and subscribe to #Wearefailing. Without these two people admitting their town has a problem, everything else that local people do can only make a marginal difference.

The purpose of #Wearefailing is to get these two people to “fess up” and take responsibility. They will find this hard to do. First, the MP has to confront the Chancellor explaining that “something must be done” and the head of the Local Government must ensure that something is done. Setting failure criteria (see below) is a start.

Five years ago Bill Grimsey wrote an excellent paper on town centres that was largely ignored in favour of the Mary Portas game show. His latest report seems also to be falling on deaf ears.

The money can and must be made available since failing town centres impact a lot of the UK population and their quality of life. I have already found the “magic money tree”.

Denial of the problem is followed by,

• Don’t blame us – we cannot do anything about it
• The causes are beyond our control
• It is their fault

Macclesfield presents a good case study of a failing town. Despite a group of wonderful women starting “Treacle Market” (the busiest day of the month in the town), unless and until the local councils and MP admit the problem and take action it will continue to fail.

There are probably 500+ failing towns in the UK. Nearby Leek has a completely different set of problems and reasons for them and needs solutions if it is not to go into terminal decline.

What defines a “failing town”? It isn’t necessarily empty shops – technological advances (e.g. ecommerce) mean that we have too many shops. Many more will close as the retail chains abandon their shops in the secondary towns and existing shop owners retire. By itself, shops closing does not make a failing town.

Once the local politicians admit #Wearefailing positive actions can be taken but “slopey shoulders” (we can do nothing, it is their fault) does not make things better.


Photo – New Look’s new look – troubled fashion retailer closed store with one week notice.

Failure criteria were brilliantly described in a “Yes Minister” episode

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