In recent years there has been no shortage of reports about how bad austerity is and how it is affecting the poorest the most. However, while much of this is well meaning, it is short on what we need to do differently. In the new manifesto for local economies, the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (Cles) sets out ideas which breaks out of this austerity narrative and the present timidity of some proposed alternatives. For us, decent public services and fairness work with and for prosperity and against poverty and inequality. Cles draws on a range of experiences to reclaim a local economics which work for social justice.
Opinion Piece - Blog
The announcement that the £6bn NHS budget in Greater Manchester will be devolved to the city region has taken many by surprise. The government has already devolved £2bn of spending to the city region. This proposal (the details of which still need to be worked up) is worth three times that amount, devolving nationally controlled structures such as hospitals and GPs to merge with local support and community care services. Greater Manchester will create a new ‘health and wellbeing’ commission to control the flow of money across the system, and to create links between primary and community and residential care.
Too often policy has little empathy toward the poorest. We already know that the policy default settings, such as trickle down and a ‘rising economic tide will lift all boats’ are just not strong enough to tackle poverty, even in times of growth. But increasingly, some policy seems alarmingly detached from the plight of the poorest. We don’t need to look very far to see this detached lack of empathy. It’s in the words of politicians, who denounce the benefit claimant as ‘a shirker’, but applaud the virtues of elite greed.
The UK is in the midst of a low pay crisis. Over 5 million people do not earn a wage which is sufficient to afford them a ‘decent’ quality of life. Wages across a raft of sectors are not rising in line with the cost of living and particularly costs associated with housing, fuel and food.
The biggest beneficiary of the living wage is not people or places, it’s HM Treasury Low pay is the fastest-growing reason people in the UK are poor: an estimated 5 million people are not paid a wage that enables them to live a decent quality of life.
Ill health is not just a social problem, says the chief executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies. For the past four months an independent inquiry has been sifting through evidence to examine why health inequalities are growing both within the north of England and between the north and the rest of the country.
Local enterprise partnerships are dominated by large businesses to the detriment of growth in our communities. Small businesses account for 47% of the UK’s private sector employment and around a third of turnover, but they are being left out of the loop when it comes to shaping and nurturing local economic growth.
The word ‘economy’ can be traced back to the Greek word oikonomos, – ‘one who manages a household’. However, the idea that the economy is intimate and social is often lost from modern day economic discussions. Indeed, all too often the social sphere, is seen as an assumed outcome of economic activity, rather than a planned for and locked-in necessity.
This connectedness with the social sphere should be central to any local economic development. What is the point of local economic development if it does not deliver social outcomes or address poverty? In this we need to think about building a local civil economy – an economy which is decent, fair and works for people.
Many local places face significant challenges. On the one hand, sluggish or no growth, coupled to rising inequality and poverty is placing significant pressure on public services. On the other, austerity and cuts to local government and public services are reducing the ability by which the public sector can act. There is a lot of commentary about the causes of inequality and poverty but a lack of real action.
In November last year, I was delighted to be asked to give evidence to the communities and local government committee inquiry into local government procurement. The session gave Cles the opportunity to highlight the work we have been undertaking over the last five years on local government spend and how to use it for creating great economies, lives and places.
At a time of austerity, can local leaders do more to tackle poverty with their existing processes, budgets and services? Matthew Jackson looks at the options.
Our cities are entering a new challenging age of resource constraints, economic uncertainty, social instability and environmental change. We need solutions. New technology has a key role in this. So it was with hope, that I travelled to Barcelona for the Smart City Expo and World Congress.
I was in Australia recently. I was primarily speaking at the competitive cities conference. However, I also did some masterclasses, and caught up with the Centre’s Australian resilience research. At the conference, I was privileged to share a platform with Ed Glaeser, professor of economics at Harvard and author of The Triumph of the City. At one point he mentioned the problem of the ‘boondoggles’ – I did not know the term, but I now know it means a pointless scheme which wastes time and money. However, in my jet lag, I thought he said ‘boom goggles’, which I took to mean those who always see the imminent arrival of a new economic boom
Ted Howard, founder of the Evergreen Co-operative Initiative, told us what we could want, in a fabulous CLES, NewStart, Co-operativesUK and Hub Westminster event I chaired last night. For me the question he posed is so relevant to the task of regenerating failing places in the UK. The places which have received endless regeneration monies, have lost their economic purpose, and are searching for a new and vibrant future.