Published: 23rd Feb 2016

small for articleThe Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Leeds Council and Leeds city region came together to explore how the region’s economic growth can be spread more fairly. As the programme reaches its midway point, Josh Stott analyses its progress. 

We have reached the mid-point of the More Jobs, Better Jobs partnership, which provides a good opportunity to report on progress to date and our plans moving forward.

We are working together to help boost the local evidence base, identify areas for action, and develop and support adoption of new policy ideas.  This programme is framed around three broad pillars which underpin the leadership role cities can play in achieving inclusive growth. These pillars are not just relevant to the Leeds city region but can apply equally to other city regions.

They are:

1. Creating an ‘inclusive growth’ framework: Cities are well placed to champion and establish their own inclusive growth agendas. The objectives and priorities of strategic economic plans set the tone for the type of economy a city is striving to create. The ongoing process for refreshing the local strategic economic plan within the Leeds city region is timely and we hope that this will provide a clearer framework for action and investment on inclusive growth. A critical aspect of ‘agenda setting’ is understanding what success might look like and being able to measure progress towards these goals. We have developed an inclusive growth framework to benchmark performance and guide strategic investment priorities. It is a package of measures that combines income, living costs, employment, skills and output indicators. We will be publishing the new framework covering the performance of all local enterprise partnership areas in late spring and will updating this on an annual basis.

‘Local economic leadership extends beyond local

government to a wider set of anchor institutions’

2. Connecting up growth and poverty agendas: Cities can help join up the growth and poverty agendas by drawing stronger connections across local networks, sectors, institutions and services. We are working to establish what actions cities can take now and what more could be done if greater powers and responsibility were held locally. We are looking in depth at three key areas:

  • Low pay and progression: How can you support people out of low pay into better quality work with better prospects? We have developed a package of employment and skills initiatives that can support progression for low-paid workers across the Leeds city region. Our core proposal is to pilot a sector-based approach involving employers and individuals. The package also includes an enhanced information, advice and guidance services for people already in work. We will be publishing this report next month at our national conference on Better Jobs, Better Business, in Leeds on March 10th.
  • Maximising the impact of major capital investment: How can you ensure poor households benefit from the employment opportunities generated through strategic infrastructure and development projects? Our research has found evidence of good practice across the city region but that this is highly variable and dependent on local capacity and/or the characteristics of specific projects. The critical issue is how to develop approaches which effectively target those furthest from the labour market. This is as much a challenge for employment and skills provision as it is for planning negotiations and procurement contracts. We are now developing a pilot scheme to identify the costs and benefits of pursuing a more targeted approach. A development project pipeline is also being developed at the city region level, which will help identify skills gaps and opportunities. We want to ensure that the new structures and programmes being brought forward at city region level integrate the good practice approaches that already exist in some local authorities.
  • Labour markets and deprived neighbourhoods: The 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation highlights that it is the ‘same old’ neighbourhoods that are disconnected from growth. Within Leeds, and all the core cities we are mapping different ‘types’ of deprived neighbourhoods and their relationship with wider labour market areas. This will enhance our understanding of the spatial disconnect that persists and enable us to develop differentiated policy approaches according to the characteristics and contexts of specific neighbourhoods.
  • Anchor institutions leading by example: Leading an inclusive growth agenda cannot just be around strategy development, policy design and service delivery. Cities need to lead by example and demonstrate good practice through their own organisational footprints. We believe that this local economic leadership role extends beyond local government to a wider set of local anchor institutions (the biggest spenders and employers with an inherent stake in the local economy).  There are a small number of very large organisations within Leeds city region which, combined, spend billions and employ tens of thousands. We have been working with some of these local anchors (including local authorities, universities and the NHS) to identify good practice in their procurement, recruitment and employment practices. We believe a more strategic and collaborative approach across these institutions could help spearhead an inclusive growth agenda. For example, through bending procurement spend they could maximise their impact on the local economy by opening up supply chain opportunities to a wider range of local organisations. The challenges associated with achieving this shift in organisational cultures and practices should not be underestimated. We have a lot more work to do in embedding the anchor concept locally and developing a shared understanding of what could be achieved and how. The West Yorkshire low pay charter is a good example of collaborative local authority leadership around this agenda.

The More Jobs Better Jobs Partnership was designed to be a catalyst for ideas, and to influence decision-making in the Leeds city region. We will only achieve our desired impact through strong local leadership and the next phase of the partnership is focused on helping ensure action is taken. Identifying local champions at different levels within a wide range of organisations will be key to ensuring genuine impact from our joint working.