WMCA welcomes findings of Inclusive Growth Commission

Call for central government to assist regions post-Brexit.

A think tank call for a new deal between Whitehall and local authorities to boost the UK and prevent further division post-Brexit has been backed by the chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority.

The RSA Inclusive Growth Commission report said new social contracts should be struck between central and local government to give local areas greater responsibility for, and control over, economic and public services spending.

The Commission believes this would help to make the UK economy more inclusive and beneficial to all. Cllr Bob Sleigh, chair of the WMCA, said: “Here in the West Midlands we are already seeing the benefits of devolution deal signed last year so I would welcome anything which would see an expansion of them.

“Many of the issues proposed here we have already identified in our talks with the Government over further devolution, such as skills and training and local financing. It is therefore heartening that this report shares our belief that the way towards strengthening the UK economy is going to be through strong foundations at a local and devolved level.”

The Commission was chaired by former BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders (pictured).

The report, released earlier this week, said successive governments had prioritised broad economic growth instead of ensuring all parts of the nation contribute to, and benefit from it. A focus on the quantity, rather than quality, of jobs created had helped produce a divided country with some areas feeling left behind.

The report made four sets of recommendations:

Place based industrial strategies
· City regions should take the lead in how industrial strategies are implemented.
· The creation of new institutions to connect business, schools, training providers and universities. Build on and give space to large employers’ engagement with the apprenticeship levy.
· Broader based leadership – Combined Authorities working with organisations such as Chambers of Commerce, sector councils, and BIDs.
· Focus on the most vulnerable groups – e.g. low skilled and young people without GCSE standard

A reset of the relationship between town hall and Whitehall.
This would include:
· Maximising impact from available
· Exploring further fiscal devolution
· Devolved skills and lifelong learning
· Local skills partnerships – similar to a health and social care model used by Greater Manchester – responsible for commissioning
· Better connections with local schools – Regional Schools Commissioners to be given tighter geographic remit and work with sub-regions, cities and counties

Inclusive growth at the heart of public investment
· A New Inclusive Growth Investment Fund (bank), including repatriated EU funding, to be overseen by an independent board.
· Local areas to apply for funding – regional ‘banks’ could also be established for a more devolved approach

Making Inclusive Growth our working definition of success
· The government should commission work to collate and update understanding of impact of investment on people and neighbourhoods
· The government should also commission assessment of social infrastructure
· Include representation from local leaders in national bodies such as the National Infrastructure Commission
· Annual assessment of UK’s progress towards an inclusive economy

Further details about the RSA Inclusive Commission can be found here The full report can be read here