The wellbeing barometer

Our latest Bright Idea comes from Gavin Barker via New Start’s Linkedin group: independently monitored wellbeing barometers to hold local authorities and LEPs to account

I want to pick up on the questions posed by Neil McInroy in his blog ‘what is the point of economic localism if it can’t tackle unemployment or link economic activity with social need?’.

And in his previous blog post ‘Can localism give a helping hand to the poorest’, he suggests the localist agenda offers ‘greater local powers to build an alternative economic vision, which is freed from economic growth orthodoxies’ one which allowed us to think about ‘[how] the local economy works in relation to better environmental, health and social outcomes’.

Having worked for a local authority for eight years, my feeling is that it is very difficult to provoke new thinking without a massive ‘nudge’ from the outside. At the moment local authorities are still locked into a ‘big is beautiful’ approach. Headline-grabbing regeneration strategies that revamp city centres reflect well on ‘corporate brand’ – something that local authorities are obsessed with. Trickle-up approaches are just not as sexy.

So here’s my proposal: let every local authority area (note: not the local authority) develop a set of indicators that form the baseline evidence and barometer of wellbeing and use it to hold local authorities and local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) to account. Let it stand on an independent website co-owned by a network of local third sector bodies.

It could become the reference point and source of information for charities and social enterprises and encourage them to relate their social impact measurements to these indicators in a meaningful way. The local public would also gain a better picture of their area and would more likely trust information that was independent of the local authority and ‘unspun’ by a media that has failed lamentably to inform and act impartially in the public interest.

Such a platform would allow all of us to ask hard hitting questions about the area we live in; if for example, a highly touted local economic strategy is found two years on, to have made no dent to unemployment, child poverty and health inequality, that levels of deprivation in our most deprived neighbourhoods remain exactly the same, despite the millions invested, someone needs to answer for that.

These are critical questions and if a LEP or local authority knows it will be held to account further down the line; if it knows that this data is now being widely shared on a regular basis, is only one click away and regularly updated, the chances are it may prove pivotal in the change of direction needed to steer a different economic course and ensure that economic impact is measured in a way that takes full account of social need.

As an example of what I am talking about I am sharing with you a prototype that probably needs significant improvement. It is a data dashboard done as a powerpoint presentation based on the Marmot indicators on health inequality with a link to a heat map on IMD. It takes Westminster LA as an example. Ideally the website should include data on child poverty, fuel poverty, the local median wage and rates of unemployment or part time employment.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top