With the election of the Greater Manchester’s new metro mayor a few weeks away, the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit are producing a number of short policy briefings around what policies the mayor could adopt around inclusive growth. Here, Professor Ruth Lupton summarises their first policy briefing and identifies some key priorities for the new mayor.
- The economic growth pattern of recent decades has benefited central areas but not smaller industrial towns and created increasing inequalities Place-based industrial strategies are needed to develop and connect neglected communities
- Large institutions can support smaller local firms, disadvantaged individuals and communities through local procurement and employment practices
- The mayor should investigate new forms of ‘patient capital’ to support investment in the local economy, perhaps through a local bank
- It is also important to involve people with experience of ‘uninclusive growth’ in designing new policies
Today the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit launches the first in a series of short policy briefings designed to help turn the rather slippery and contested topic of inclusive growth into practical reality – with a focus on Greater Manchester but relevance for other UK cities.
Our first briefing gives an overall picture of the ‘inclusive growth agenda’ and how the mayor might take it forward. Later ones will cover specific topics: employer charters, planning, education, regional banks among others. Anyone interested should keep an eye on our website over coming months.
So what could the mayor be doing to promote inclusive growth?
The RSA’s recent Inclusive Growth Commission report argues that inclusive growth needs to be a ‘binding mission’ for UK cities, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggests that it needs to be the ‘organising principle’. But what would this mean?
It is essential that the mayor grasps the breadth of the agenda. As Henry Kippin and Carolyn Wilkins argued in this blog a couple of weeks ago, it is easy to make ‘inclusive growth’ mean whatever you want it to mean. It could be about public sector reform and/or a conservative agenda about ‘stabilising’ the current economic model by connecting more people to jobs and helping the ‘just managing’ to keep their heads above water. These measures are needed, and our briefing points to some of the things the new mayor might do.
These include a new ‘Schools Challenge’ focusing on improving educational outcomes for children from poorer backgrounds; strategic use of the Apprenticeship Levy to focus on opportunities for disadvantaged 16-18 year olds and on high quality training to enable in-work progression for adults; revitalising children’s centres and family support services; prioritising transport improvements for disadvantaged areas, for example.
Rebalancing the economy
But to really make a difference, inclusive growth must also be about ‘rebalancing’. We are still dealing, in Greater Manchester as in other cities, with the economic and social consequences of long run industrial decline. The economic growth pattern of recent decades has benefited central areas but not smaller industrial towns, and created increasing inequalities and poor conditions at the bottom of the labour market, with too many people stuck in insecure or low paid work. To be inclusive, the growth model has to change.
No one pretends this is easy at a local level. But there are things that can be done. Place-based industrial strategies are needed to develop and connect neglected communities. We can develop different economic models such as social enterprises, co-ops and mutuals which spread benefits more equally. Large institutions can support smaller local firms, disadvantaged individuals and communities through local procurement and employment practices. Firms operating on low-cost business models can be supported to move up the value chain through investing in training, workforce development and innovation, thus increasing numbers of better paid, higher quality jobs and increasing productivity. We argue that the mayor should investigate new forms of ‘patient capital’ to support investment in the local economy, perhaps through a local bank.
Leadership and ownership of the inclusive growth agenda
But just as important as any individual policies will be the way the new mayor leads the inclusive growth agenda. Inclusive growth doesn’t fall into a neat policy silo, but is in one of those ‘in-between spaces’ of urban policy in which no one institutional actor has a concrete or exclusive mandate. Inclusive growth is fundamentally about the economy, so it cannot be an agenda that the public sector alone can deliver. Employers are key, and so too is ‘civil society’. For this reason, we argue that the new mayor must adopt a distributed form of urban leadership to take this agenda forward – identifying leaders in different spheres and sectors and empowering them to act, and convening multi-expertise teams to bring new approaches to wicked issues – a model Bristol has adopted with its City Office.
Drawing on the work of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, We point to the importance of ‘anchor institutions’ – the large and long standing institutions in a city such as the universities, hospitals, and cultural institutions – and the power of harnessing their collective spend and resources to support the local economy and spread inclusive employment practices. We also highlight the importance of involving people with experience of ‘uninclusive growth’ in designing new policies. The upcoming consultation on the Greater Manchester Strategy should serve as a starting point for a city-visioning process to establish what inclusive growth would mean for residents and stakeholders in Greater Manchester. Once that process is completed, it is vital that the new mayor prioritises putting that strategy into action.
- Read the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit’s policy briefing