Redefining growthFollow @pwc_ukgov
By Stuart Howie, Director, Infrastructure & Government
We all want to see growth returning to our economy and, from a local government perspective, a lot of what’s going to be needed to restore confidence – a resolution of the eurozone crisis, the coalition government sorting out the deficit, the recovery of our banking sector and so on – are ‘big-ticket’ issues out of the control of local authorities.
Nevertheless, however and whenever these big policy and political decisions get made, cities – and within them local authorities – have a significant role to play as engines of sustainable growth at a local level, as drivers of investment and economic momentum.
But, increasingly, it is being recognised the sort of growth cities can achieve is strongly linked to their power to address social, environmental and economic issues in a holistic, joined-up way. The development of the sustainable and competitive cities that we need now and into the future requires an integrated strategic approach.
In turn, this requires city and local authority leaders to be developing a clear vision for growth underpinned by appropriately aligned capital investment strategies. They need to be encapsulating their city’s strategic ambition, and from there developing the delivery plans needed to foster sustainable, long-term prosperity.
Developing and engendering this sort of vision and direction will have many facets, but one central thing we believe would help policy-makers is to look beyond ‘Gross Value Added’ as a typical local level measure of economic success. GVA has its uses but is just one measure of ‘success’, and a narrow one at that.
Our research on good growth has identified that local communities generally measure success using a much wider scorecard of factors; successful growth is not just about GDP or GVA, it is also about economic wellbeing, jobs, income, health, work-life balance and infrastructure.
We’re currently working with local authorities to explore methods that go beyond traditional GDP project appraisal tools and which can take our ‘Good Growth’ index to the next level of detail, using sub-regional data to understand further the relationship between cities and their hinterlands.
The challenge, then, for local authorities is to use this wider scorecard, this wider recognition of what counts as success at a local level, to formulate more nuanced, more appropriate and focused local economic development and capital investment strategies.
We may be, to a greater or lesser extent, in the hands of our national and international political masters when it comes to restoring growth and prosperity, but one way local government can help itself is by creating much better definitions of local success and ‘good’ growth, and making sure investment plans are aligned.
A version of this first appeared in the LGC on 26 July 2012
Email: Stewart Howie
Tel: 0113 289 4811