Is a growing economy something to celebrate when the benefits it brings are out of reach to many? While the economy grew as a whole in the 2017/18 financial year, the poorest 20 per cent of the population actually experienced a real terms decline in their incomes of 1.6 per cent. Some two-thirds of the jobs created by Britain’s much-heralded, post-recession jobs boom have come in the form of ‘atypical employment’, such as gig economy work and zero-hours contracts. The Government has started to turn its attention to reducing regional imbalances in economic growth, but years of inaction have given them a mountain to climb – the only regions where productivity is above the UK average are London and the South East.
In recent years, policy-makers have started looking beyond usual growth measures (such as GDP and employment figures) towards new approaches that enable more people to contribute to and benefit from economic growth. ‘Inclusive growth’ is the umbrella concept bringing together many of these approaches. NLGN’s latest report, Cultivating Local Inclusive Growth: In Practice, supported by Barrow Cadbury Trust, features examples of some of the projects currently being led by councils throughout England.
The report is structured around NLGN’s new framework for cultivating inclusive growth. We designed the framework to be a practical tool to help councils develop their thinking, no matter whether they are just starting to develop a strategy or are in the process of implementing one.
The framework identifies the groups councils should work with to promote local inclusive growth:
- Employers. These are private, public and third sector organisations of all sizes who employ people in the local area.
- Citizens. These are the people who live and/or work in a local authority area.
- Partners. These are the organisations that work with councils to deliver public services and other projects, such as the NHS, schools and colleges, and companies that have been awarded a contract by the council.
- Places. These are parks, buildings, town centres and other forms of physical space and assets in an area.
These are set against the levers councils can currently use to promote local inclusive growth:
- Regulate. This category covers the hardest policy levers at a council’s disposal, including their ability to set rules and regulations to promote inclusive growth. For example, one council uses its procurement process to ensure that only businesses paying the real living wage can successfully apply for council contracts.
- Incentivise. Councils can offer incentives, financial or otherwise, for employers, citizens and partners to behave in a way that is conducive to promoting inclusive growth. For example, one council offers undergraduates and recent graduates of local universities a wide range of paid placement and training opportunities to encourage them to stay in the area.
- Shape. Councils can reshape their area to promote inclusive growth – either literally, through things like redevelopment, or in more subtle ways. For example, some councils have created charters setting out socially responsible business practices and invited local employers to sign up to them.
- Facilitate. Councils can also take a more ‘back-seat’ facilitative role, by creating the partnerships, institutions and frameworks to enable others to take the lead on inclusive growth. For example, one council worked with partners to set up a fund for projects that help local communities access employment, education and training opportunities.
Each section of the report contains many more practical examples and case studies.
We are very grateful to the council officers and think tank/academic researchers whose experiences and insights generously shared with us through interviews and workshops were invaluable to our research. We are also grateful to Barrow Cadbury Trust, whose support made this project possible.
If you have any questions about our research or would like to talk to us about our inclusive growth research, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.