Opinion Piece - Blog

A true Living Wage – 5 reasons it’s needed

The new real Living Wage was announced this week as part of the Living Wage Foundation’s ‘Living Wage Week’ and reveals the work still needed to ensure employees and families are paid what they need to live. As part of CLES’ belief in progressive economics for people and place, CLES has contributed to the Greater Manchester Living Wage Campaign and our work around community wealth building through anchors has supported the proliferation of the Living Wage.

There has been progress in this agenda, but there is work to do to ensure that everyone is paid a fair wage for a fair day’s work. It is not enough to view job creation as success, we need good employment, which is secure, paid fairly, and provides opportunities for progression. This blog highlights why the advancement of a true Living Wage is important.

The impact of devolution upon frontline services

At the Labour Party Conference in Brighton last month, CLES and APSE launched their report looking into ‘The impact of devolution upon frontline services’. This report set out to look at why Frontline services have been absent in devolution rhetoric to date. A surprise given the ‘localise’ ethos is key to the devolution deals.

Gaps in the Greater Manchester Strategy

The new Greater Manchester Strategy ‘Our People, Our Place’ was launched last week with ten new priorities announced to make Greater Manchester one of the best places in the world to grow up, get on and grow old. With a compelling focus on people – described by Mayor Andy Burnham as Greater Manchester’s ‘greatest asset’ – and some whispers of alternative economics, the Strategy shows a marked shift towards new priorities for GM. However, its strength will be in its delivery, and there are some gaps that could be addressed to go further towards achieving the goals set out in the strategy.

People and Place

Collaboration between the public, private and voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sectors to deliver place based growth which benefits local people is at the forefront of the new strategy; certainly in rhetoric terms.

Community Wealth Building: harnessing the potential of anchor institutions in Preston

Anchor institutions bring wealth in the form of jobs and supply chains; they are rooted in place and as such are vital to the functioning of our local economies. In Preston, anchor institutions have started to realise their potential and make significant contributions to wider local economic development, as our latest spend analysis illustrates.

Over the last six years, CLES and Preston City Council have been working together to harness the potential spending power of seven local anchor institutions: Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council, Preston’s College, the University of Central Lancashire, Cardinal Newman College, Lancashire Constabulary, and Community Gateway. In our work we have sought to collectively change cultures and behaviours so that greater economic, social and environmental benefit is derived for the Preston economy and its residents.

Barcelona: building a new local economics


‘We are living in extraordinary times, that need bravery and creative solutions.’ – Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona.

I recently visited Barcelona – invited to attend and speak at Municilab. The visit builds on ongoing activity that CLES is undertaking with organisations within the city. This two-day event was a fascinating and exciting exploration of municipalism, and how to build a more social and economically just Barcelona.

Wealth for all: an activist local government

Re-municipalisation? Not the catchiest term, but across Europe and the UK, local government is on the rise. Instead of succumbing to the inevitability of decline and being the last line in mopping up social pain, more people within local government are stepping in – making the economy work better for all.

For many years, economic growth hitched to public sector reform has been the mantra.  For some areas it is working, but growth is often meagre or fails to trickle down, and reform is often eroded by demand. The promise of a ‘devolution revolution’ turned into an evolution and is now largely stalled. Inclusive growth has opened doors to a questioning look at economic growth policy but it’s more geared toward national policy. Indeed, warm words around ‘unlocking the potential of growth’ offers nothing particularly new to what many local authorities have been doing for years in terms of adopting living wage policies, working with local business and local labour markets. However, alone this is no enough.

We need a new social contract. A local one

A lot has changed since the post-war founding of the welfare state, and the social contract that went with it is eroding. Austerity has undoubtedly changed things, and so has devolution. CLES CEO, Neil McInroy argues that to build social justice, we need a new social contract: and that this includes one that is local to place and community; one that balances the strengths of the private, public and social sectors; one in which we make sure businesses do their bit.

Devolution is an opportunity yet to be fully realised. Devolution to some areas of England has been broadly focused on local economic growth and managing austerity through public sector reform. But with more power to local areas and the advent of Metro Mayors there is potential to forge a new relationship between business, the local state, social sector and citizens—a new local social contract.

A new urban economic agenda: localise, socialise, and democratise

There are sensible ways through which we can reorganise the UK economy, argues CLES CEO, Neil McInroy. He explains how a new urban economic agenda can be implemented and how it can help build a more socially just future.

All things must pass and the dominant urban economic model of the last few years is starting to creak, and a new progressive agenda is threatening to replace it. At its core is a rejection of liberal economics, a questioning of urban economic policy, and a desire to reorganise our city economies: social justice and environmental sustainability are not just hopes but central objectives.

Yes, we should move public sector anchors out of London

Today, the Centre for Cities (CfC) issued a new report suggesting that the re-location of the BBC to Salford has had minimal impact on employment across Greater Manchester and that city-regions looking to attract public sector organisations should not overplay the potential benefits. The work is framed by analysis of the types of jobs which have been re-located, the sectors where jobs growth have happened over the last five years, and the scope of displacement of jobs from across wider Greater Manchester.

While it is important to highlight quantitatively the short-term impact of re-location on employment change, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) would argue that any assessment of impact of public sector re-location has to go beyond employment. We would argue that the BBC re-location has brought a whole host of benefits for the direct MediaCity locality, for the City of Salford, and for Greater Manchester including:

8 ways to enhance the role of housing providers

Housing providers have a significant role to play in the functioning of the economies in which they are based and in addressing social issues. They achieve this through the delivery of activities which complement and supplement public services and contribute to a variety of outcomes including around employment, and health and well-being.

Like other place based anchor institutions, housing providers also have a key lever for economic, social and environmental change at their disposal in the form of procurement. All housing organisations will purchase goods, services and works and will have a process in place to design, procure and deliver these. However, the challenge with procurement historically is that it has often been overly bureaucratic, with price the primary decision-making criteria; and little opportunity to utilise procurement to address wider issues.

Broadening out an economy: making it work for all

The recent report from the Industrial Strategy Commission, ‘Laying the Foundations’ [1], outlined the key foundations for a successful long-term industrial strategy, one which can shape our future economy, and the recent Taylor review of modern working practices [2] is potentially laying the foundations for how we might work in our future economy. But will they make it work for all?

A new lens for industrial policy?

In January, we argued what a modern industrial strategy should look like, suggesting again, in May, that an industrial strategy that works for all places, should present a devolved approach to building a more foundational, collaborative and co-operative economy, developing industrious places and people, not just our traditional industrial sectors. So, it is pleasing to see the Commission advocate more of a place based and a whole economy approach. One delivered locally, where social policy is not separate but intrinsic to any industrial strategy. The Commission agrees that trade-offs between short term efficiency and long-term equity should be considered more seriously, arguing we need to invest in infrastructure to create the conditions for growth in all places. The report challenges the current methods of appraising the benefits of public investments, suggesting they disproportionately benefit parts of the UK where the economy is already strong, so we clearly need to adopt a new lens if we are to deliver an economy for all.

How can we give citizens a meaningful voice in big public decisions?

On 14 June 2017, CLES co-hosted the Manchester launch event for Claudia Chwalisz’s book,The People’s Verdict: Adding Informed Citizen Voices to Public Decision-making, together with the Manchester Urban Institute, The Crick Centre, The University of Sheffield and Policy Network. Below is a key summary of her conversation with Neil McInroy, Chief Executive of CLES.

Introduction: A few thoughts on the problem

NM: The world has many wicked and complex issues. Global finance, climate change. Our problems are system based; we live in a network, not in a hierarchy. In this context, there is also a new questioning of democracy and elected politicians.  Trust in representative democracy is and has weakened.

In the UK, our 19th century or even older arcane and archaic modes of governance, institutions and practice are out of kilter with a networked 21st century.  It’s analogue in a digital work. Centralised in a distributed world. I sense a new hankering for a new type of politics.  People are not anti-politics, they are maybe anti the type of politics we have.

We need a society which is on the up

The Social Mobility Commission has confirmed what many have long known – governments have failed to significantly reduce inequalities. The Brexit vote and the subsequent soul searching has finally brought many of these issues to the fore. The growing sense of disenfranchisement in the country and increasing gap between “haves and have nots” is now penetrating mainstream discourse, prompting a political rhetoric of an ‘economy that works for all’ where the benefits of growth are shared among the ‘many, not the few’.

What we have been doing has clearly not worked

The UK economy has not worked for all for a long time. Indeed our economic models for decades have tolerated, and been somewhat unconcerned, by high levels of socio-economic inequality. What we have been doing collectively to address challenges of poverty and inequality over the past two decades have clearly not worked. In its report Social mobility policies between 1997 and 2017: time for change, the Commission argues that successive governments have failed to make social mobility the cornerstone of domestic policy, and that long-term progress has too often been sacrificed to short-term change. A piecemeal approach has bought some advances, but a failure to develop a holistic policy approach has meant that gains have been lost as efforts have waxed and waned.

After Grenfell: tenant empowerment and the end of cities as markets

The Grenfell Tower tragedy raises huge questions about public sector austerity, growing inequality and the price we pay for treating homes as commodities. Neil McInroy gives his view to New Start on the way forward for housing, community relations and cities

Neil McInroy: ‘If any good can come out of this horror, it will be a rejection of the idea that cities are predominantly a market’

The horror of Grenfell is linked to deepening and widening inequality and injustice in our cities.  The chasm in housing choice and wealth – while particularly brutal in Kensington and Chelsea – is replicated across the country.