Last Word

12.06.17

National policies won’t fix local problems

Andrew Carter, the recently-appointed chief executive of Centre for Cities, argues that the new government will only succeed if it focuses on implementing policies that are adaptable to place-based needs.

Throughout the short-lived election campaign, leaders of the parties were clear in their pledges to introduce policies that benefit the country as a whole. Given the likely impact of Brexit and the political focus on the ‘left behind’, it is no surprise that politicians were keen to demonstrate their understanding of the world beyond Westminster. 

But for the most part, such promises are unlikely to actually make much of a dent on the disparities we see between places and people across the UK. 

That’s because, despite the growing understanding in recent years of the diverse role that different places play in the economy, policy discussions are still largely national in focus. The issues that underpin economic divides play out very differently in cities across the country. 

The new government, as it sets how it will address the UK’s biggest economic challenges – productivity, skills and housing – must have these differences in mind, and introduce policies that are flexible enough to respond to the differing needs of localities. 

Take the UK’s productivity problem – a huge issue that needs to be addressed if we are to improve living standards and kick-start wage growth. This problem doesn’t play out the same way across the country. A worker in a city in the greater south east – London, Reading or Milton Keynes – produces in 3.5 days what a worker in a northern city produces in five. This variation in performance needs to be central to the government producing plans. That means ensuring successful cities can maintain their momentum, while still supporting those cities that have struggled. 

An important way of improving productivity is to improve skills – it was a big theme over the course of the election, and the cross-party acknowledgement of the country’s skills problems is welcome. The UK’s economic future will be in more high-knowledge, high-skilled service industries, not less. Once again, the divide across cities, and therefore the country, is clear. Our least productive cities also have the lowest shares of skilled people – both in terms of degree-level qualifications and GCSEs – and the highest shares of no-skilled people. By making sure that people’s skills are improved, it will create more opportunities for employment, wage growth and business growth. 

And, where productivity is already strong, the costs of success must be curbed. The most productive cities, many of which are in the south east, also suffer from the most expensive housing. The Conservatives pledged to build a million more homes, but approaching this at a national level will not solve the crisis of affordability that is the most acute in places like London and Cambridge. 

Policymakers must not only build housing, they must build it in the places that need it most, and consider a range of options for development when doing so. The UK needs its successful cities, but if issues like housing and congestion are not dealt with, then the costs to both business and workers of being in those cities could begin to outweigh the benefits. 

In the last seven years, huge steps have been taken to give cities the tools they need to address the unique challenges their individual economies are faced with, and it is essential that the UK continues down that path over this Parliament. If the national economic challenges are not seen through a city lens, there is the risk that the policy meant for the many will barely even fall to the few.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

Malcolm   21/06/2017 at 15:20

About till the well went with out (labour voter)

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

10/12/2018Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

All councils must publish detailed rough sleeping and homelessness strategies by winter 2019 or face government intervention if they fail to do s... more >
Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

07/12/2018Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

Tendring District Council has been fined £27,000 after the local authority pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach when an outbreak of... more >
High Court slams Herefordshire council for ‘woeful’ children’s care after failing children ‘on a serious and serial basis’

07/12/2018High Court slams Herefordshire council for ‘woeful’ children’s care after failing children ‘on a serious and serial basis’

Herefordshire council has apologised for failing children in two separate cases through its “woeful” children’s services after ... more >

interviews

New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >
Cllr Cutts on dealing with children’s services pressures: ‘I can’t magic money out of the air’

26/09/2018Cllr Cutts on dealing with children’s services pressures: ‘I can’t magic money out of the air’

The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council has outlined her priorities for dealing with soaring demand of children’s services and social ... more >
Nottinghamshire considers unitary shake-up proposals in a bid to balance books

05/09/2018Nottinghamshire considers unitary shake-up proposals in a bid to balance books

Nottinghamshire County Council is considering proposals to scrap its current two-tier structure for a new unitary system in order to save on... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >

comment

The digital buying community is live

12/11/2018The digital buying community is live

Many of the requirements from buyers posted on the Digital Marketplace were either non-compliant or poorly worded, which resulted in challenges f... more >
A force to be reckoned with

12/11/2018A force to be reckoned with

The South Bank plan, which refers to a number of investments and proposed activities across a massive plot of land south of the River Aire, is on... more >
Less for less: the risk of 'core offers'

12/11/2018Less for less: the risk of 'core offers'

As councils across England struggle with their finances in the face of massive cuts from central government, Simon Edwards, director of the Count... more >
Social value in Greater Manchester: lessons learned

05/11/2018Social value in Greater Manchester: lessons learned

Peter Schofield, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) collaborative procurement programme manager, looks back at the region’s histo... more >
Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

10/12/2018Councils must set out rough sleeping strategies by 2019 or face government action, Brokenshire warns

All councils must publish detailed rough sleeping and homelessness strategies by winter 2019 or face government intervention if they fail to do so as part of the government’s new road-map t... more >
Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

07/12/2018Council fined thousands after pleading guilty to ‘catastrophic’ disease outbreak

Tendring District Council has been fined £27,000 after the local authority pleaded guilty to a health and safety breach when an outbreak of Legionnaires disease left a man fighting for his ... more >

the raven's daily blog

New framework addresses the importance of digital transformation for the public sector

04/12/2018New framework addresses the importance of digital transformation for the public sector

Ryan Reed, head of public sector sales at Swiss Post Solution (SPS), reveals the new ESPO 390 framework, which can help address the need for digital transformation across the public sector.  The administrative and financial burden of manual processes and physical records is taking its toll on across the public sector. The g... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >