Tom Bridges posts on a new research project Leeds City Council is launching with Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Leeds City Region. The idea of ‘good growth’ is central to this – meaning, in Tom’s view, that economic growth and anti-poverty strategies should go together. Tom points out that as the Leeds economy restructured, “the labour market has become more polarised, and the gap between places of affluence and deprivation has widened in Leeds and the City Region.Leeds had the fastest jobs growth of all the Core Cities in the decade before 2008. The city’s economy was hit hard by the recession and ongoing public sector austerity, and is now bouncing back strongly. However there is still some way to go before job numbers are back at pre-recession levels. Further losses of public sector jobs mean that significant job creation in the private sector is needed just to enable us to stand still.”
What does ‘good growth’ mean? Tom makes some key points: worklessness and economic activity are a net economic loss to the city, as well as being a social evil; economic growth must lead to job creation; in-work progression is important as well as helping the unemployed and inactive into work; while supporting innovation and ‘new economy’ sectors, don’t forget sectors such as retail and hospitality which offer entry-level jobs and (contrary to much perception) opportunities for progression; and do more to open up some professional careers to a wider range of progression routes. (Not just more rungs on the ladder but a range of different ladders in place, if I haven’t stretched that metaphor to breaking point). Finally, these people-focussed approaches to be balanced with a consideration of place and internal migration trends – that is looking at schools, quality of life etc at neighbourhood level as way of retaining people who up-skill.
I would agree with much of this approach – and in particular, the importance of creating a strategy which brings these elements together. It will be very interesting to see how the Leeds economy – one of the UK’s city success stories pre-recession – develops over the next few years.