Cleveland, Ohio has faced significant challenges over the last 20 years. The crash of the manufacturing industries in the 1990s led to a reduction in the number of jobs to the sum of some 150,000. This had associated consequences for the local population, which reduced from around 800,000 to 400,000 as people headed elsewhere seeking opportunity. It also had consequences for the physical and social feel of Cleveland: there is a myriad of vacant and derelict property and, for those remaining, high levels of unemployment and limited opportunity. The downtown area became a ghostly area embroiled in economic decline.
Public sector organisations like councils and colleges can do much to work with suppliers on their doorstep and stimulate local economies. In Lancashire work is underway to ‘repatriate’ spending. Anchor institutions are crucial components of our towns and cities. Commonly including local authorities, further and higher education providers, and housing organisations, they are key employers and procurers, embedded in their communities and unlikely to leave. In a UK context, the potential of anchor institutions to contribute to wider local economic development has been untapped – until now.
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.
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.