Heseltine Institute report paves way for prosperous Liverpool City Region

A new report produced by the University of Liverpool’s Heseltine Institute for Public Policy and Practice, and commissioned by the TUC, sets out how Liverpool City Region can create new jobs, with decent pay and conditions, by using devolved powers to pursue a place-based and innovative industrial strategy.

How to deliver great jobs: towards a regional industrial strategy for Liverpool City Region, finds longstanding problems, including high unemployment, low productivity, pockets of entrenched deprivation, and a weak skills base.

And it identifies challenges ahead, such as ongoing public sector austerity, and the future loss from of £100m a year of funds that currently come from the European Union.

But it finds opportunities too. Devolution is allowing Liverpool City Region to take more control of the funds and decisions that can lead to job creation.

And it provides an opportunity to pursue ‘inclusive growth’, so that Liverpool’s bedrock sectors, like manufacturing and the visitor economy, have the support needed to create better quality jobs.

Devolution also allows the opportunity to take risks and try new approaches, learning from innovative models such as Cleveland Ohio’s focus on ‘anchor institutions’ (for example the University of Liverpool), or the support the Basque Country in Spain has given to large-scale cooperative businesses.

Report author, Dr Alan Southern said: “Industrial strategy must address the UK’s regional inequalities. Our research suggests that devolution can frame that debate. With Liverpool City Region’s new powers, we can choose policies that help make work more secure. And we can choose to spend public funds in ways that improve economic and social outcomes.

“We found a will, and a momentum, to support approaches by the Metro Mayor and Combined Authority that improve locals business and the quality of work. We have strong industries, such as a highly productive manufacturing sector, and an economically important public sector. The challenge is to bring more benefits from these sectors to local people.

“While devolution can play a major role, it must be backed by action from central government to tackle work insecurity. And we should consider the case for greater devolution, so we can take more control through local democracy, and choose to invest more in modern infrastructure and supporting small businesses.”

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotherham, said: “This report provides an academically backed and independent endorsement of the case I have been making about the challenges and opportunities we face as a city region.

“In an area with such a proud sporting tradition, we’re unaccustomed to languishing at the bottom of any league tables, but that’s precisely where we are across a range of economic indicators, such as youth unemployment, households with no adult in employment, and skill levels.

“The answer is to use the devolution powers we have to start to take the decisions that are right for us, freed from the overcentralized, ‘one size fits all’ Whitehall approach. But there is much further to go in terms of increasing the powers and financial independence of the city regions. This is what will allow us to realise our full potential and rebalance the economy so that we make our full contribution to the income of UK plc.

“I very much welcome the part this report will play in helping us to prosecute our case”.

TUC Regional Secretary for North West England, Lynn Collins, said: “We want working people to be able to get skilled work that’s close to home, pays well and gives them the chance to get on in life.

“We must build on our bedrock industries, like manufacturing and tourism, so they have support and trained workers to deliver more great quality jobs. And we must draw on Liverpool’s proud heritage of creativity to innovate new approaches.

“Devolution must not just be a transfer of power from one level of government to another. It must be about giving workers more of a say in shaping the economy too. That’s why new partnership bodies for unions, employers and government are such an important part of the plan.”

Dr Aileen Jones, Deputy Director of the Heseltine Institute, said: “We were pleased to work with the TUC on this important research and are committed to continuing to work with the public, private and third sectors to provide fresh thinking and advice to tackle pressing public policy issues in the Liverpool City Region and beyond.

“This research shows how an industrial strategy can be developed and delivered to provide good jobs for the people of the Liverpool City Region and emphasises the huge opportunities that devolution provides.”

The report, which was launched at the North West Leaders Board in St Helens, sets out three strands of action:

  1. Actions that can be taken in Liverpool City Region now:
  • A City Region social contract between employers and employees. The terms of reference for Liverpool City Region Fairness and Social Justice Advisory Board (FASJAB) should include a focus on the City Region economy, and the principles of inclusive growth.
  • Improve training provision, by tasking Liverpool City Region Skills Commission with prioritising the visitor economy, targeting employers’ needs, and weeding out poor value and exploitative training schemes.
  • Public procurement in support of social values, with a lead person for inclusive growth and social value designated with immediate effect and for feasible social impact objectives during commissioning to be set, including the development of appropriate tools of measurement.
  1. More powers for Liverpool City Region:
  • Further devolution to the City Region, including consideration of skills funding, transport powers, planning, housing, health, and employment, through social partnership consultation.
  • New advisory members on the Combined Authority, to increase the participation and voice of workers.
  • Formal partnerships with other Northern combined authorities, including powers to raise additional finance for infrastructure development.
  1. Central government action to support Liverpool City Region:
  • Central government investment support, through replacement of European Structural Funds, and by taking advantage of current low interest rates to support city-region industrial strategy initiatives.
  • A North of England investment bank, which could help finance the investment needs of small and medium size enterprises in Liverpool City Region.
  • Action to tackle insecure work, focussed on employee representation, fair wages, dignity at work, regular employment and learning.

To read the full report, please visit www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/great-jobs-Liverpool.pdf

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