I’ve just got back from dropping off my son at nursery around the corner. The nursery is a light, welcoming and reassuring space which – such is its air of unadulterated joy – even lifts my spirits in the morning.
It is a new routine for us. After nine months I have returned to CPP full time and I’m now learning the juggling act that all parents must perfect. It is not just whether or when to return to work, but the navigation of public services, use of which for many people only starts to ramp up once they have a family: healthcare, early years and education services. As well as public transport, which I relied upon in the first months to get around, yawning constantly, comforted by the warm words of other passengers that the sleepless nights would improve.
I was lucky enough to access our local children’s centre for additional support, as well as a peer-led group for new mothers jointly funded by the council and Spurgeon’s children’s charity. After a decade of public sector austerity, it was humbling to see local volunteers and public service professionals striving to maintain services accessible to all; whether at the library, hosted by faith organisations or online.
Recent analysis by Local Trust and Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion reaffirms the importance investment in social infrastructure in achieving inclusive growth. Their data identified 206 areas – often at the edges of cities or towns – where lack of places to meet, low levels of community activity and poor physical and digital connectivity are key indicators of social and economic outcomes, in addition to deprivation. Yesterday CPP launched its own index of inclusive growth at a community level, demonstrating why local and national policy makers need to go beyond traditional measures of economic progress if we are to achieve greater productivity and shared prosperity.
The future of the UK economy has been the subject of increasingly heated debate in recent months. What impact might a no-deal Brexit have? To what extent would it disproportionately effect areas that voted Leave? Today the Supreme Court finds itself at the centre of another landmark Brexit ruling, over two years since it rejected the Government’s appeal against parliament having a final say on the withdrawal deal. Then I argued that political connectivity – a sense of agency, connectedness and belonging to one’s place – would be the bedrock of successful local inclusive growth strategies. Then I might have described myself as one of David Goodhart’s ‘Anywheres’: skilled, resilient to structural economic change and welcoming of the opportunities of global citizenship. Now, having experienced a profound sense of belonging and community connectedness, I declare myself a Somewhere. Not through a shift in values, but in a yet firmer belief that place-based, inclusive growth will be the only way to heal the wounds of a divided United Kingdom.