Time for more creative economic policy? Reflections on the Autumn Statement - RSA

Time for more creative economic policy? Reflections on the Autumn Statement

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  • Picture of Reema Patel
    Research Director and Head of Deliberative Engagement, Ipsos
  • Economic democracy

Reema Patel responds to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's recent announcement of the Autumn Statement, calling for more creativity in the way economic policy can solve Britain's social policy problems.

Today’s Autumn Statement highlighted the vital importance of reigniting a more creative economic debate.

Whilst increased investment in infrastructure (road building programme in the North and increased Research and Development spend), increased funding available to Local Enterprise Partnerships to kick start regional devolution and increased funding for affordable housing are all to be welcomed – they represent sticking plasters on the growing economic and social problems that engulf our society and our economy.

The glaring omission of social care and, to a lesser degree, health from the Autumn Statement more generally is emblematic of the growing tendency of the Autumn Statement to turn into a long list of policy announcements rather than an opportunity for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to outline a plan, a strategy or a direction of travel for the UK economy. If the Autumn Statement showed anything – it was this - it’s time for a more creative approach to economics – recognising the vital role it plays in supporting the country’s social infrastructure.

For instance, 40,000 extra new affordable homes by 2021 will not solve the deep seated issues of housing insecurity and rising rents that many residents face at this moment in time. Colleagues here at the RSA are posing critical and important questions about the sharing economy and what that means for gig workers, about the rise of self-employment as well as the fragmentation of labour-market relations more generally. We are also outlining a vision for a more democratic economy and what that means for the governance of companies; Theresa May’s confirmation that the government is determined to deliver on securing worker representation on boards at Prime Ministers' Questions immediately prior to the Statement raises questions about broader stakeholder engagement and involvement in corporate decision making, for example.

We look forward to the new Spring Statement, moved forward from the Autumn – and hope to see a more creative, refreshing approach to economic policy laid out within it. We live in different times, which means we need to do economics differently as well.

Find out more about the RSA's Citizens' Economic Council, which is working to give citizens a say on national economic policy, and influence the future of the UK economy

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  • It seems to me that we also need to consider how we can make economic policy more holistically, involving not just more people with a wider ranger of expertise, but also of those affected. The current autumn statement/budget process is too focused on short term politics - i.e. tactics - and insufficiently on a longer term strategic approach. I see nothing in government which brings the employment and social issues together with the economic and financial issues in a way that provides much confidence that policies are coherent and mutually reinforcing. I fear it still looks like an exercise dominated by the Treasury, considering financial and economic aspects, with a few wider items thrown in, mainly for political effect. Perhaps the RSA needs to be considering how a more coherent, long-term, holistic approach might be managed, perhaps working with the Institute of Government?

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