The Government has failed to offer a compelling narrative around inclusive growth, Leeds City Council’s chief executive has warned.
Tom Riordan told colleagues at The MJ’s Future Forum North conference that, while the Industrial Strategy briefly mentioned inclusive growth, ministers still do not grasp the need to reach people who feel left behind.
He said: ‘The biggest weakness of the Budget announcement and the Industrial Strategy we’ve seen so far is around inclusive growth.
‘It was mentioned but there was very little follow through of a story of how this is getting to people who feel left out.
‘It is very much still in the Westminster bubble, but we are still dealing with the local reasons of why people wanted to leave [the EU].
‘That is something we’ve really got to get right.’
Mr Riordan’s speech focused on the gaps in the Industrial Strategy white paper that he believed local government could fill, despite only leading the agenda in mayoral combined authorities.
He said: ‘The Industrial Strategy is forward looking in a sense and particularly about technology and digital and all that stuff, but we need to inject a bit of ambition and radical thinking and different ways of working locally.
‘I am not cowed by the fact local government is not leading this, but we must demand a better relationship with local enterprise partnerships (LEP) and LEPs need better governance.
‘We can make sure there is consistency and collaboration. There is a danger we can get that separation.
‘It is not all about government money. It is about going for global investment and taking advantage of the fact the Northern Powerhouse has captured the imagination of the Chinese and Indian investors.
‘[Local government can help on] joining up the different departmental agendas.’
Trafford chief executive Theresa Grant explained how the British economy was skewed against the north. ‘The UK’s productivity is behind other major European countries and the North is well below the UK average.’
Addressing colleagues yet to embark on devolution journeys, Joanne Roney, the chief executive of Manchester City Council, told colleagues having a mayor had brought an ‘added dimension’ to the work they are doing to address economic and prosperity issues in the region.
She said: ‘Andy Burnham is a very loud and charismatic voice, but having a mayor really adds to the progress we are making.
‘But irrespective of governance arrangements, every area can take something from that, can create fantastic places.’
She urged councils across the country to continue to play a role in boosting connectivity, investment and capacity, pool budgets and resources and develop workforce talents.