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A new independent RSA Inclusive Growth Commission, launched today, will investigate how local economies can drive growth, productivity and prosperity through greater economic inclusivity.

Stephanie Flanders (JP Morgan Chief Market Strategist and former BBC Economics Editor) will chair the major inquiry, which will report next year.

The Commission is the successor to the RSA City Growth Commission, chaired by Lord O’Neill of Gatley, which was the driving force behind city and sub regional devolution deals including the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and Great Western Cities.

Globally, policy makers are debating how to respond to on-going low economic growth and high inequality. The OECD recently launched the Inclusive Growth in Cities campaign. An international consensus is emerging that inequality not only has a social cost, but that it also hampers long-term economic performance.

The RSA Inclusive Growth Commission will develop a practical plan to make cities and towns across the UK more economically inclusive, where more people are able to contribute to, and benefit from, the growth of their locality.

Building on the success of the RSA City Growth Commission, the new Commission will examine how the state needs to change - centrally and locally - to enable different parts of the country fully to realise the potential of devolution. A key focus will be geographical inclusion: making sure that the benefits of the place-based approach to growth are widely shared.

Commenting on the launch, the Commission’s Chair Stephanie Flanders said:

“I am not looking for a treatise on inequality and economic performance, but an intensely practical agenda for tackling the entrenched inequalities within and between neighbourhoods that hold back growth. The City Growth Commission changed the way we think about economic policy in the UK. Now our job is to broaden and deepen that vision, and to make sure the city-based approach doesn't leave neighbouring towns and regions behind."

The Commission will engage with Whitehall, business, local and national leaders and citizens across the country in a series of seminar sessions, evidence hearings and deep-dive case studies.

Next spring, it will set out a policy framework that integrates growth, public service reform and devolution so that they support each other, rather than pull in different directions, as is so often currently the case. The implementation of this programme will create more productive, innovative and resilient local economies.

Charlotte Alldritt, RSA Director of Public Services and Communities and Director of the Inclusive Growth Commission, said:

“By improving transport connectivity, creating new single pot investment funds and granting strategic planning powers, devolution deals have created a platform for enhancing local growth. The challenge now is to ensure as many people as possible are able to contribute to, and benefit from, that growth. To achieve this, places need to tackle persistent inequalities that drag down economic performance and isolate families and communities within our major city-regions and smaller towns and cities. Further waves of devolution need to have people at the heart of their push for productivity and prosperity.”

The Commission is kindly funded by Core Cities UK, Key Cities, Local Government Association, London Councils, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and PwC.

Sir Richard Leese, Chair of Core Cities UK and Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Core Cities are responsible for 25 per cent of the UK economy. They are undoubtedly engines of UK economic growth – but within them too many people are too often left behind, struggling to get by and get on. It is time to think differently, building on the best practice from across the UK. The proceeds of the growth in our cities have never been shared equitably - it is time for a radical, evidence-based approach, that builds on the ground-breaking work of the RSA City Growth Commission.”

Paul Watson, Chair of the Key Cities Group, and Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We are delighted that Stephanie has agreed to chair the Commission, and I’m sure that she’ll lend great authority and expertise to its work. As the Commission highlights, cities, towns and local communities across the country have reached a critical moment. We have to reshape our economies and public services now to fulfil the needs and ambitions our people have for the future.”

Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:  “Devolution deals stand to unleash the full potential of our local economies and radically transform public services by targeting money where it is most needed. Place-based decision-making will help to reduce inequalities and make towns and cities more inclusive by delivering more homes and infrastructure, creating jobs and a skilled workforce, joining up health and care services for elderly and vulnerable people, and making the most of each place’s unique assets – which this Commission will help to fully realise.”

Mayor Jules Pipe, Chair of London Councils, said: “Many Londoners continue to be excluded from the benefits of London’s economic growth. Two of the most deprived boroughs in the country are in the capital and we continue to grapple with high levels of long-term unemployment. Therefore, the question of how localities might better promote inclusive growth is a vital one for Londoners and we welcome the RSA’s focus on these issues.”

Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and a member of the Inclusive Growth Commission, said: “Devolution has the potential to provide new tools with which city leaders, in partnership with employers and workers, can begin to rebalance the economy so that it provides far greater life chances for the people and places who have previously been left behind. For that to happen two important conversations must take place: one between Whitehall and the regions about which further transfers of powers and incentives would help to encourage the process; and within regions another about how to single-mindedly connect new economic opportunities to the neighbourhoods and people who most need them. The Commission is well placed to lend some much needed creativity and urgency to both of these.”

Stephanie Hyde, PwC executive board member and head of regions, said: ‘‘Good growth is about much more than just GDP. Our research on Good Growth for Cities identifies a broader measure of economic wellbeing that embraces jobs, income, health, work-life balance, housing and transport infrastructure and the environment. The Commission’s challenge is to identify and define what citizens across the UK perceive as the common measures of economic success. Only then can city and community leaders formulate economic development and capital investment strategies that are appropriate for both people and place."


Notes to Editors

  1. The RSA Inclusive Growth Commission will look to influence policy makers and practitioners in the context of the evolving city-region devolution agenda, with an aim to publish our final recommendations before the new metro mayoral elections in 2017.
  2. The Commission will complement the ongoing international debate on inclusive growth. The IMF has called for a more ‘inclusive capitalism’ and the OECD is leading a campaign to promote inclusive growth.
  3. For more information contact RSA Head of Media and Communications Paul Duffy on 020 7451 6893 / 07799 737 970 or
  4. The Commission can be contacted via Charlotte Alldritt, or 0207 451 6848.