RORE-ing forward


The UK has a big problem, and for once, it’s one everyone can agree on: for too long, regional disparities have suppressed the potential of some areas of our country, leaving communities behind, as growth and opportunity amass in others.

But things could be different. For at least 20 years there has been recognition that decentralisation is the key to a more even spread of prosperity across the UK. From New Labour’s devolution of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies to the creation of elected mayors under Cameron and Osbourne’s government, both parties have recognised the necessity of devolving powers from Westminster. But, as Britain’s persistent levels of regional inequality have made clear, simply devolving modest powers is not the solution. The one-size-fits all approach to economic development, predicated on GVA growth, which is favoured in Westminster does not benefit all our regions equally.

“communities in the driving seat”

Now, with new devolution settlements coming into force in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, and with more areas set to follow suit – including the North East, as announced in last week’s Spring Budget – combined authorities are bringing clout, spending power and scale to our regions for the first time in a long time. This means that leaders have the opportunity to experiment with different ways of doing things. They can explore how local levies and powers can be used to encourage sustainable and equitable economic development as well as how new powers over transport, health and housing can put people and communities in the driving seat of decision-making. This is a moment of huge potential, with the door at least partially open to build a new way of doing economic decision making at a scale not seen before.

That’s why we’re so glad to be a partner in Reclaiming our Regional Economies (RORE). This new programme – developed by CLES, alongside the New Economics Foundation, Co-operatives UK and the Centre for Thriving Places and funded by the National Lottery Community Fund, Friends Provident Foundation, the Barrow Cadbury Trust and Power to Change – is bringing communities together with political and institutional leaders to understand how they can design economies that build better lives. We’re doing that by testing ideas that can help to re-wire and reform our approach to regional governance, to deliver prosperity, good health and fairness now and for generations to come. In each of the programmes’ three pilot regions (the West Midlands, South Yorkshire and the North East) we are exploring a different pathway to test and demonstrate the many routes to delivering not just better regional economies, but also wider systemic shifts.

“bringing people together with anchor institutions”

Whether it’s in transport, housing, health, economic development or any other significant area of public policy, RORE is bringing together people and communities, involving them in the direct development and delivery of a vision for their areas. In our first year, we’ve already begun to understand the differences between the governance approaches of the three different combined authorities and how they engage communities in decision making, bringing people together with anchor institutions and facilitating joint working across public, private and VCSE organisations.

“visions for future regional economies”

In the remaining four years of the programme, the partners in RORE will co-create and communicate a new vision for this country’s regions which is inclusive, dynamic and rejects the cookie-cutter model for economic development and growth dictated by the Treasury. We will articulate the demands and desires of the regions for more devolution and control over their destinies, advocating a path to economic growth and development which puts building community wealth at the heart of visions for future regional economies.

We are just at the start of this journey, a journey which will take us through the inner workings of local and national government, regional heritage and culture and the skills and employment landscape of our devolved regions. Over the next four years RORE will lead the conversation on the way in which this country redresses its economic unevenness, and we hope you will pitch in too.