The Future of Inclusive Growth in Leeds City Region

By George Edwards and Sherif Youssef

About the author

George Edwards is a postgraduate researcher at The Bauman Institute in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds. Sherif Youssef is a doctoral researcher at the Centre of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Studies at Leeds University Business School and the Bauman Institute. Sherif is an Organizational Theorist with a background in marketing and public policy. His research focuses on hybrid organisations such as social enterprises in the emerging markets, which aims to address societal challenges while creating some financial revenues. He has a broader research interest looking at the economics of innovation, patient finance and economic growth.

Leeds skyline showing Bridgewater Place

Leeds City Council has launched its Inclusive Growth Strategy setting out how the “Council, the private sector, universities, colleges and schools, the third sector and social enterprises in the city will work together to grow the Leeds economy ensuring that everyone in the city contributes to, and benefits from, growth to their full potential. It sets out how the city intends to promote a positive, outward looking image on the global stage seeking to increase inward investment, exports and tourism.”

The Inclusive Growth agenda outlines a strategy to link economic development with concerns over the distribution of wealth in Leeds City Region. Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy 2018-2023 aims to address low growth and high inequality through twelve ‘Big Ideas’ that tend to focus upon supply-side interventions in the local labour market to reduce unemployment. For example, through strengthening the role of schools in job training, improving the commercialisation of knowledge in universities and improving transport links between the city centre and surrounding communities.

We believe that this strategy could benefit from more radical policy innovations, particularly since technological advancements in automation may impede the goals of the Inclusive Growth Agenda. For instance, automation in factories in Wakefield could increase unemployment and polarise job markets, exacerbating financial inequality in the region. Achieving a truly inclusive economy for the future of Leeds City Region therefore may require much more comprehensive reforms than those set out in the 2018-2023 strategy.

Accordingly, a conference has been set up as an output from a Leeds Social Science Institute (LSSI) postgraduate placement with Leeds City Council to address fundamental policy debates over more innovative ways to reduce inequality. On October 19 at Platform (Bruntwood), Leeds, this conference will gather leading experts and policymakers to introduce local stakeholders to radical approaches to economic development and urge local policymakers to think beyond supply-side interventions in the labour market of Leeds City Region.

The event will encourage debate surrounding the challenges and opportunities for inclusive growth in the near future of Leeds City Region. This will be followed by a debate on the relevance of alternative policies – such as ‘alternative models of ownership’ and universal basic income – and whether these may be more effective means of creating a truly inclusive local economy in the region. In the afternoon there will be an interactive workshop which will explore whether more entrepreneurship is the best way to tackle inequality. We will be considering the following questions:

  • Can inequality be more effectively reduced by democratising power and ownership in the local economy?
  • Is more precarious self-employment a legitimate policy goal for the 21st century?
  • Is the fear of mass technological unemployment a justified concern for Leeds City Region?
  • Why are local wealth building strategies absent from the inclusive growth agenda?
  • Why are mainstream business development programmes prioritised over ‘alternative models of ownership’?
  • Can radical welfare proposals like Universal Basic Income or Universal Basic Services achieve a truly inclusive economy?

If you are interested in participating, please register for the event online

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