Local Industrial Strategy

Jessica Bowles, Strategy Director

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In November 2017 Theresa May published the national Industrial Strategy to great fanfare. Today in the last few days of her premiership Greater Manchester has published its local industrial strategy in response.

This is a big step forward. The UK Industrial Strategy said next to nothing about places - a significant gap, ignoring as it did the devolution journey that the cities were on and the critical part they have to play in rebuilding the economy on different lines.

The Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy published today is the latest in the line of evidence-based, ambitious, partnership-led strategies. These approaches have linspired huge change in the city region - from the tram network, to the transformation of the city into a thriving new economy, to major improvements in education levels.

The focus on GMs global strengths - health innovation, advanced materials with graphene as its poster-child, digital and creative, and clean growth - is a good foundation. The recognition of other industries is welcome too - especially the service sector and professional services, both critical to the city region’s economy. And in true GM style we cannot think about jobs without also thinking about people. Despite the major steps forward too many people are still in very poor health. The inequalities in health are shockingly and stubbornly wide. It’s also true that too many people experience a lifetime of insecure work and older people especially often have low skill levels or are long term unemployed.

The strategy has ideas to tackle all these challenges. And joins problems and opportunities in ways so characteristic of this self reliant and radical city. A good example of this is the way that GM’s R&D strengths in health innovation will be used to improve local people’s health AND generate jobs and economic opportunity. In so doing it creates opportunities to solve the problems that will be faced by every post industrial city - and sell these to the world. The Clean Growth Mission for carbon neutral living is bold and exciting - needing every ounce of ingenuity, partnership and drive this city can muster.

This strategy is a welcome partnership between government and Greater Manchester, with Cabinet level backing and government has committed to engage countless times through the strategy.

And yet.... there is still a problem. There is still something missing.
Hidden at the back of the document is a line which makes clear there is no new money involved in this strategy. I know from experience - in Whitehall and in Manchester - how hard the negotiations will have been on this text and still there is no new money. It is only with long-term investment to sit behind these strategies that real change will come about. It is good to see national government beginning to tentatively move forward on the devolution agenda after stalling for so long. The last two years have been a low point but we will struggle to get to a better place and deliver a transformational plan without the investment and long-term commitment to back it up.

This is not just an issue about Greater Manchester. It applies to all the regional cities and calls for a new relationship between government between national government and local places. One that recognises their respective roles and contributions and the need for long-term investment to drive better economic and social outcomes for the UK as a whole.

It is heartening to see Government re-engaging with the idea of ‘place’ with the joint commitment to this strategy. In a few weeks we will have a new administration led by a new Prime Minister. Their challenge will be to will the means, not just the ends.

 

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