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

Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

21/09/2017Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

Strikes by refuse workers in Birmingham have this week been called off after the union won an important High Court ruling. Unite has called ... more >
IFS: Public sector faces recruitment chaos if pay cap is not dropped

21/09/2017IFS: Public sector faces recruitment chaos if pay cap is not dropped

The public sector will face major recruitment and retention issues if pay restraints, which are pushing wages to historically low levels, are con... more >
‘Fundamental rethink’ on social housing needed as Javid brings forward green paper

20/09/2017‘Fundamental rethink’ on social housing needed as Javid brings forward green paper

A wide-ranging, top-to-bottom green paper on social housing is to be brought forward by the government, Sajid Javid has this week announced. ... more >

interviews

‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

30/06/2017‘The HSCN is the realisation of industry best practice’

Keith Smith, public sector business development manager at Virgin Media Business, tells PSE’s Luana Salles that health and social care orga... more >
HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

26/06/2017HSCN: The enabler for a more joined-up public sector

Mark Hall, Chief Assurance Officer at Redcentric, discusses NHS Digital’s project, the new Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) and what b... more >
Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

25/04/2017Maintaining the momentum for further devolution

Ahead of this year’s mayoral elections, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, tells PSE’s David Stevenson why the argu... more >
New social care funding misses the point

13/04/2017New social care funding misses the point

Clive Betts MP, chair of the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee, reflects on the social care funding released in this year’s ... more >

editor's comment

14/08/2017Time for reflection

A lot has happened since the last edition of PSE was published. In particular, the snap general election delivered an astounding result that many of the pollsters and political experts could not have predicted when Theresa May initially called for it back in April. Chris Painter, Professor Emeritus at Birmingham City University, provides ... 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

Support for councils following Grenfell

04/09/2017Support for councils following Grenfell

Ian Moore, CEO of the Fire Industry Association (FIA), discusses the wider lessons of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire and what measures and assess... more >
A quiet revolution

04/09/2017A quiet revolution

Dermot Ryan, programme director at NHS Digital for the Health and Social Care Network (HSCN), talks to PSE about the importance of moving to the ... more >
Effective leadership in uncertain times

04/09/2017Effective leadership in uncertain times

Dr David Beech, lecturer in people management at Salford Business School, argues that continuous renewal and progress is fundamental to effective... more >
Refocusing professional development

04/09/2017Refocusing professional development

Graeme McDonald, managing director of Solace, discusses the importance of taking time out to focus on learning, especially in the ever-changing l... more >
Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

21/09/2017Birmingham bin strikes called off following key High Court ruling

Strikes by refuse workers in Birmingham have this week been called off after the union won an important High Court ruling. Unite has called off the strike as a judge granted an interim injun... more >
IFS: Public sector faces recruitment chaos if pay cap is not dropped

21/09/2017IFS: Public sector faces recruitment chaos if pay cap is not dropped

The public sector will face major recruitment and retention issues if pay restraints, which are pushing wages to historically low levels, are continued by the government, experts have today warne... more >

the raven's daily blog

How do we deliver true social and economic value for the community?

18/09/2017How do we deliver true social and economic value for the community?

Five years on from the introduction of the Social Value Act, Alison Ramsey, frameworks co-ordinator at Scape Procure, reflects on the key questions that prompted the legislation’s introduction. The Social Value Act was an important landmark. It decisively addressed the need for major public projects led by all public bodies to maxim... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >