Inclusive Growth Conference – Round up

1 November 2018

By Zoë Billingham

8 minute read

CPP’s inaugural Inclusive Growth Conference tackled head on the question of how we make inclusive growth a reality in the UK and globally. Framed by the urgent need to address persistent inequalities and against the backdrop of rising populism in countries across the world, discussions included: the role of skills, retraining and progression in the labour market, the case for renewed impetus for place-based devolution and the role of cultural institutions in shaping inclusive economies. From public finance to private investment, health and social care, no stone was left unturned.

Gabriela Ramos, OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa to the G20, grounded our morning sessions in compelling UK and comparative international data showing the urgent need to address rising wealth inequality. This was picked up by Liam Byrne MP, co-chair of the APPG for Inclusive Growth, who contrasted 2018 as the most successful year in history for billionaires against the ever-rising demand for food banks in his constituency and across the country. Here he picked up the story powerfully told by Emma Revie, CEO of the Trussell Trust, in the opening address (Read our blog on food banks). Countries in receipt of the UK’s 0.7% GNP in foreign aid, Henry Bonsu, our enthralling compère reminded us, would scarcely believe the degree of deprivation in parts of Britain and Northern Ireland.

Another sobering fact highlighting the nature of the problem was illustrated by the OECD's analysis of poor UK social mobility; children in the bottom 10% of parental income in the UK take six generations, roughly 150 years, to reach the average OECD income (the average across the OECD being 5 with Denmark proving its credentials at a comparatively low 2). Lord Victor Adebowale, CEO of Turning Point, spoke of the experience of his organisation in helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society who face complex social and economic challenges without the advantages bestowed on most middle-class policy makers and public service professionals. Nevertheless, he brought some optimism to the morning in highlighting the role of social enterprises in better understanding and responding to ‘what matters’ when it comes to alleviating poverty.

This stark setting up of the problem led to discussion of the pitfalls of using GDP to measure economic growth. Dame Henrietta Moore, Director of the UCL Global Prosperity Institute asked us to ‘change what we value’, creating a society that demands a different type of economy. Cllr Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor of Bristol spoke of the work the City Office is doing to assess the quality of its growth and impact it has on local people. An example of this is monitoring the number of young people with access to quality work experience places.

Other local innovation featured prominently throughout the day, particularly during our cities and devolution session. We heard good examples of places building their own inclusive growth infrastructure and seeking their own sources of funding to catalyse change on the ground, including: North of Tyne Combined Authority’s (NTCA) upcoming Inclusive Growth Board and Inclusive Growth Fund; Bristol’s One City Plan and City Fund, and efforts in Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region to promote the good work agenda amongst local employers.

However, Claire Ainsley, Executive Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, argued that devolution must mean power with a purpose; whilst there is strong agreement on the economic importance of cities, when cities and other places ask for more powers we must ask what they are going to do with them to improve outcomes for people.

Adult skills is one of the areas in which we have already seen some limited devolution. CPP’s latest report, Skills for Inclusive Growth, was launched at the conference and – in reflecting upon our analysis – the Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes, reminded us that the people we identified as being failed by the school system are the same people we identified as trapped in low skill, low pay jobs as adults. That same group are then also those most at risk of displacement from structural economic change. Meanwhile further education institutions have suffered a sharp reduction in funding since 2010 with many experiencing a fall in numbers of people able to take up learning opportunities – particularly whilst in work. In his keynote address, Scotland’s Minister for Trade, Innovation and Investment, Ivan McKee MSP drew attention to the way Holyrood is pursuing fair work and reminding employers of their role in lifelong learning.

To round off the morning, we heard from Rob Berkeley from BlackOut UK, Laia Gasch from the Mayor of London’s Office and Paul Bristow from the Arts Council who spoke passionately on the role of culture in underpinning inclusive growth, citing case studies in London, for example, of providing spaces for smaller communities by means of investment in ‘cultural R&D’.

Fresh from lunch and thought-provoking talks by Dr Victoria Bateman on the role of empowered women in driving economic growth, and a lively debate on why politics isn’t is working, we returned to the auditorium for the afternoon…

Contemplating the work of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice, Michael Jacobs, former director of the Commission, reflected on the need to get on with making a structurally fairer, environmentally sustainable economy, including through devolution of power to four super-regions (the North, Midlands, London and the South East, and the South West).

Following from our discussion on health and social care at Labour and Conservative party conferences, several of yesterday’s panellists spoke about the long term financial pressures on the NHS (despite the windfall from the Budget, just the day before) and the persistent failure to tackle the social determinants of health. Liz Kendall MP set out how a progressive government ought to approach the challenge and was one of several people throughout the day to remind policymakers to listen with humility to service users and co-design solutions with them and their families. Richard Murray, Director of Policy at the King’s Fund, spoke positively about the role of place in improving health outcomes, calling on the NHS to look beyond its narrow institutional boundaries.

The NHS had dominated much of the Chancellor’s speech, and Gemma Tetlow, Chief Economist at the Institute for Government gave us a pithy review of Budget 2018, which was assessed by Laura Gardiner, Director of Research at Resolution Foundation, as “an easing, not ending, of austerity”. Spending will be funded out of unexpected headroom, more anti-avoidance measures, the yet to be finalised digital revenue tax and a tightening up of rules for the higher paid self-employed. There were multiple advocates for Community Wealth or Sovereign Wealth funds, including John Penrose MP.

Finally, the day was rounded off by an upbeat debate on the role of business in driving inclusive growth. Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive of Legal and General, opened on a positive note, remarking that the trade-off between doing good and doing well is ‘generally a myth’. CPP Visiting Fellow, Stephen Hockman QC and Neil Sherlock, advisor to PwC, both took the Companies Act (2006) to task, with the former proposing a whole raft of potential reforms to ensure longer term thinking, greater control on executive pay and investment in capital cold spots.

Action was the order of the day, and we look forward to continuing these discussions with you, our local and national partners, as we continue to develop the theory and practice of inclusive growth.

For more information on the Centre for Progressive Policy, including our first blog of a six step programme for places to take practical action on inclusive growth, please see our website.