Neil McInroy

We need a real devolution deal

Devolution is a great opportunity. After years of oppressive centralisation, devolution deals offer local and combined authorities a chance to break free and forge their own distinctive economic and social destiny. Devolution is not, however, without significant risks and challenges. Our new joint paper ‘The Real Deal: Pushing the parameters of devolution deals’, a collaboration between the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI), explores the restrictions in the current devolution agenda, and presents ideas for new types of deals, heralding a more progressive devolution.

  • Forging a good local society

    For too long we have either turned a blind eye to poverty and disadvantage or hoped that a general rising tide of economic wealth would trickle down. The vote to leave the EU has opened our eyes wide to the depths of disgruntlement and cast a strong light on the inadequacies of our economic model. We must now truly focus on how we forge a good local society and create an economy for all.

    Do we Re:Brexit?

    Downtown Manchester in Business recently hosted a special post referendum event at Alberts Square Chop House on Wednesday. The event entitled ‘Re:Brexit?’ discussed Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

    Post-Brexit we need to build an economy for the many

    Framed by austerity, the economic reality behind many voters choosing Brexit was a future of little promise – insecure jobs, insecure public provision, insecure futures. As a result, many leave voters felt that they had little or nothing to lose. On the back of an economic recession eight years ago, insecurity and a social recession has been built.

    The EU referendum has shone a light on the failure of the treasury’s local economic and devolution model. The ‘devolution revolution’ may have beguiled some, but it has passed many by. The promised ‘northern powerhouse’ was a canny brand which few saw any tangible outcome from. Indeed, I know of many economic development practitioners who felt that austerity framed devolution and its bullish treasury-backed city agglomeration ‘growth at all costs’ approach was flawed. However, they rightly got on with it, longing for it to be just a start, and something to grapple, amend and make progressive.

    The case for an inclusive state

    Inclusive growth could help the poorest benefit more from economic expansion. This will require a state that invests in new infrastructure and backs local initiatives to support communities Inclusive growth is the new concept in town. The RSA have recently announced their Inclusive Growth Commission. They seek to identify practical ways to make the UK more economically prosperous and inclusive.

    An economy for the many, not the few: the focus for inclusive growth?

    In recent months, there has been a global recognition that we must make growth more ‘inclusive’. In the UK, this has culminated in the RSA announcing an inclusive growth commission.

    This is welcome. There is no doubt that in recent years we have neglected what we have known for decades – namely that economic growth does not guarantee poverty reduction and that inequality hampers growth. Indeed, high levels of welfare and low levels of spending power is a shaky basis to a local economy. An inclusive local economy needs the poor to not be poor.

    A social turn to the local economic growth agenda?

    ur local economic approach is working for the few, not the many. A dominant ‘growth at all costs’ agenda is not delivering socially or even working particularly well for local growth. Backed by the treasury, the agenda has worked for some areas, but, overall, growth is anaemic: low wages, insecure work, and inequality. However, there is change afoot. Inclusive growth appears to be slipping onto the mainstream agenda.

    Austerity has eroded the value of public sector work

    The UK was once proud of local government and its employees. Today, through a combination of disrespect and neglect, we are dangerously blasé. Today, a dark cloud hangs over them despite their great efforts in very hard times. Talented people have left, and, as services reduce, capacity is being hollowed out.

    Inclusive growth: The next oxymoron?

    From time to time a new phrase is coined. Sometimes the new phrase articulates a new solution, at other times it reinvigorates an old one, or – more cynically – masks it. In economic development we now have the phrase ‘inclusive growth’. Does inclusive growth represent a step change or is it just a new oxymoronic phrase for the failing cycle of growth and exclusion? Maybe it’s just semantics, a new term for the toxic ‘trickle down’?