A City Deal for all: Creating a ‘good’ local economy in south Wales
September 30, 2015
2. Broader representation into economic policies
Many of the problems cited by delegates spring from the fact that economic policies in the south Wales region have not been made democratically. Delegates criticised the lack of representation into the economic policies by the people affected by them. The process for the City Deal and the thinking behind the Cardiff Capital Region have yet to include citizens, communities or the social or small business sectors and there is a strong sense of communities not feeling in control of their own destiny.
‘In economic policy there is a stranglehold by a
small elite with decisions being made undemocratically’
Delegates called for the development of a partnership of organisations engaged in and connected to the process of developing a roadmap for the collective future of the region. The social sector in Wales is worth £1.7bn and many of its organisations are working on the ground in some of the area’s most marginalised communities. The City Deal needs to support fuller engagement and participation of communities and for the voluntary, community, social and small business sectors to play a much greater role in overall economic strategy.
In an interview with New Start, Phil Bale, leader of Cardiff Council, said that he has asked the Wales Cooperative Centre for inputs and ideas to feed into the City Deal process to ensure it delivers social outcomes.
3. Measuring what matters
The vision of a ‘good’ local economy put forward during the discussion is one that measures what matters, and values what makes the region distinct, rather than trying to compete with other areas, or to be another Manchester or London.
The City Deal is focused on projects that boost economic growth and job creation, seen as blunt measurements of the social and economic health of the region.
‘There is no point in GVA growth that benefits 50% of the population.
We have an economy set up to function so that masses of people don’t contribute’.
A broader set of measurements of social and economic progress was proposed, including health and wellbeing, inequality and standards of living. Delegates suggested that a suite of measures be introduced to monitor the health of local economies in the region. This would include GVA growth but also the diversity of businesses in the area and their assets, and would track how much of the economic growth generated stays within the region.
The event has kickstarted a conversation about what a good local economy for south Wales could look like if it drew on a broader range of participants, looked inwards rather than outwards and valued what it has as well as building the new.
Wales is a nation whose natural resources once powered the world but which – many years after the demise of its mineral industries – is still struggling to find an economic destiny; a nation heavily dependent on the state for grants and solutions; a nation with devolved powers and a desire to build on its rich heritage. It is a country that needs to begin to tell itself a new economic story.
- Read the rest of New Start’s Cardiff edition here.
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Clare Goff is Editor at New Start magazine