We all want to see growth returning to our economy and, from a local government perspective, much of what’s going to be needed to restore confidence - a resolution of the eurozone crisis, the government sorting out the deficit, the recovery of our banking sector - are ‘bigticket’ 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.
But, increasingly, it is being recognised that the sort of growth cities can achieve is strongly linked to their power to address social, economic and environmental issues in a holistic, joined-up way.
Developing the sustainable and competitive cities that we need now and in future calls for 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 developing delivery plans to foster sustainable, long-term prosperity.
Developing this sort of vision and direction will have many facets, but one key factor that we believe would help policymakers is to look beyond ‘Gross Value Added’ as a typical local level measure of economic success. It 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 gross domestic product or GVA, it is about economic wellbeing, jobs, income, health, work-life balance and infrastructure.
We’re working with local authorities to explore methods that go beyond traditional GDP project appraisal tools and that can take our ‘Good Growth’ index to the next level of detail, using sub-regional data to better understand the relationship between cities and their hinterlands.
The challenge, then, for local authorities is to use this wider scorecard of success to formulate more nuanced 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, 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.
Stuart Howie, director in PwC’s Infrastructure & Government Practice and Nick Jones, director of PwC’s Public Sector Research Centre