How the new industrial strategy can support left behind places

by: Kate Barker | on: 06.12.17 | in: Industrial strategy

On Tuesday November 28th the APPG on Inclusive Growth held an event in Parliament to explore the relationship between inclusive growth and industrial strategy. Four leading participants in the current debate on industrial strategy joined us to share their views, including Dame Kate Barker, Chair of the Industrial Strategy Commission. A summary of Dame Kate’s contribution at the event is set out below.

Author: Kate Barker Published: 06.12.17 Categories: Industrial strategy

How the new industrial strategy can support left behind places

by: Kate Barker | on: 06.12.17 | in: Industrial strategy
On Tuesday November 28th the APPG on Inclusive Growth held an event in Parliament to explore the relationship between inclusive growth and industrial strategy. Four leading participants in the current debate on industrial strategy joined us to share their views, including Dame Kate Barker, Chair of the Industrial Strategy Commission. A summary of Dame Kate’s contribution at the event is set out below.

Industrial strategy needs strong independent scrutiny

“You can discern strands in today’s industrial strategy that have carried on from previous governments, but nonetheless there is still a sense that new ministers have a terrible tendency to bring to a premature end the things that previous ministers did in order to strike their own chord. In our Commission we looked at why this is and why previous industrial strategies didn’t work. That was one of the reasons why we recommended that the industrial strategy would be better carried forward if it is given strength and purpose across government and so we suggested giving it a home in the Treasury because it is often only the Treasury that can call the shots.

“This was also the reason why we call for an independent body to comment on and monitor the new strategy. I’m a believer in the expression ‘form follows function’ and so the question is ‘if you are setting up a new industrial strategy, what do you want an independent body to do?’ I think you want it to do two things. The first is to develop a set of metrics to assess how we are going to judge in 10 years times if this new strategy has worked. The second is to help to provide that continuity so that when a new minister appears who says ‘I’m going to scrap this policy as it isn’t working’, an independent body is there to say ‘that is a terrible idea because you haven’t given it time to work’.

“A new independent body wouldn’t take decisions, they are for ministers to make, but it would provide strong independent commentary. I hope the new industrial strategy advisory council proposed by the Government in the White Paper will be genuinely independent and will be able to speak truth to power.”

How to support the more left behind places

“Is the new strategy set out in the White Paper going to be inclusive? It certainly wants to move in that direction, but I felt it wasn’t inclusive enough on industries. It does talk about social care, but what are sometimes called ‘mundane’ industries – retail, hospitality – didn’t get much of a look in. Lots and lots of people work in these industries and in particular they work in them in places that maybe aren’t doing so well, the so-called ‘left behind’ places. We all know that place is much more complex than simply being about North-South: there are very poor places in London and the South East, and then you’ll find wealthy people in Cheshire. In the Industrial Strategy Commission report one of our key messages was that you shouldn’t aim to do everything everywhere – what is sometimes called jam-spreading – but you should aim to do something for everywhere.

“We talked about the need for Universal Basic Infrastructure to be provided in all places. In every place people should be able to count on good digital, transport, health and education services, and also on some good cultural facilities. We need to look at every place and think about where people are being let down. The White Paper addresses this a little bit by proposing a Teacher Premium to improve education standards across the country, but it doesn’t go far enough.”

Changing infrastructure assessment

“What is encouraging in the White Paper is the hint that there will be a different way to assess infrastructure projects, which was a big theme in the Commission’s work. A lot of infrastructure projects are assessed on the basis of seeking to increase productivity in areas that already have high productivity, rather than thinking about places which currently have low productivity but where there is enormous potential to improve productivity. This approach is partly why some places have been left behind. There hasn’t been enough faith placed in a lot of places so I was encouraged to see that the White Paper hints at having new appraisal techniques to allow for the fact that places can get better over time.

“I am a great believer in the fact that there are lots of people up and down the country who live in places where they are not able to make best use of their ability and not able to be more productive. If we don’t help those people and just rely on a few very productive places and a few very productive industries we won’t really have achieved the industrial strategy that I want to see. This is where in 10 years time we will have made the majority of people’s lives better. With this new strategy we should be aiming for that.”

 

Dame Kate Barker is the Chair of the Industrial Strategy Commission. She can be followed on Twitter @Barker4Kate. The Industrial Strategy Commission can be followed on Twitter @IndStrategyComm.

 

Before the event Liam Byrne MP, co-chair of the APPG, sat down with Dame Kate Barker to find out more about her work as Chair of the Industrial Strategy Commission:

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