Inclusive growth - Making it a reality - RSA

Inclusive growth - Making it a reality

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  • Picture of Kersten England
    Kersten England
  • Accessibility & inclusion
  • Cities
  • Communities
  • Devolution
  • Institutional reform
  • Public services

On March 6th Bradford will host the launch of the RSA Inclusive Growth: Putting Principles Into Practice guide. Bradford is a place that has long been committed to delivering an economy that benefits everyone and this makes us a natural choice to showcase the pioneering work being delivered by local authorities, business and community organisations across the UK.

The concerns at the heart of inclusive growth are nothing new and are hardwired into the DNA of our city. At the turn of the 20th century Bradford had grown from a small hamlet to one of the largest and most progressive cities in the country, leading the way in industry, welfare and education. But just as the challenges of the Industrial Revolution drove the development of strong municipal structures and powers, the creation of a truly inclusive economy and society in the 21st century requires radical new approaches. We believe the solutions to our toughest challenges will come from local leaders working together with national government, businesses, public services and residents to deliver services and resources that respond to local need and opportunity.

As the youngest, and one of the most dynamic places in the UK, realising the potential of all our people is critical if we are to create a city and district that works for everyone. We are committed to creating a high-value, high-skill economy driven by innovative and productive businesses that deliver growth, jobs and opportunity for all. 

Bradford has a strong heritage as an industrial and social pioneer. The writer JB Priestley, born and raised in the city, described Bradford as the most progressive place in the UK before the First World War.  Bradford created the first free school meals service in 1901 whilst in 1889 we were also the first local authority to generate its own electricity. Statues, streets and buildings resonate with the names of early social and business pioneers such as Richard Oastler, Titus Salt, Margaret McMillan and Miriam Lord.

The deep societal changes and challenges brought about by the industrial revolution of the 19th century are mirrored by the modern day shift to a post industrial society where the very nature of work, communities and governance are changing at a pace that is challenging us all. But just as Bradford developed solutions in the past we continue to innovate and adapt to tackle present and future challenges. The Born in Bradford project tracking the lives of 13,500 babies and their families that began in 2007 is just one example. Another example is Foodworks who are providing routes into employment for people with learning disabilities and will be providing lunch for the event.  

The RSA Deep Dive visit to Bradford in July last year found a city teeming with dynamism and energy to tackle complex challenges and a place that “smashes out social capital”.

The work of organisations such as Carlisle Business Centre and Royds Community Association demonstrate that community anchors present a major opportunity for supporting inclusive across the UK. Through our work with the JRF Poverty and Ethnicity Programme we are working with employers to use this as an opportunity to tackle skills shortages and enable growth. Our Get Bradford Working programme has supported over 2,500 of our most disadvantaged residents into employment, saving the Treasury somewhere in the region of £15 million per year.

Bradford Council along with other local authorities making up the Leeds City Region recognise the importance of inclusive growth and have placed it at the heart of our Strategic Economic Plan. As organisations we have agreed a Low Pay Charter that has delivered significant progress including paying the living wage to all our employees and introducing Social Value policies in our procurement of goods and services.

Building on this good practice to deliver deep and lasting impacts requires accelerating the shift away from fragmented and centralised policy and delivery to one where local leaders work together with national government, businesses, public services and residents to design and implement services that respond to local need and provide the platform for economic growth, successful places and strong communities. 

Crucially, inclusive growth requires support for long term public investment in our social and physical infrastructure to create the conditions for productive, sustainable and inclusive businesses and communities. We would argue that via grown up devolution deals, the income and savings made by local agencies supporting business growth and getting more people into better paid jobs need to be returned to local areas in long term investment deals with government.

The challenges of the Industrial Revolution drove the development of strong municipal structures and powers to tackle issues of poverty, poor health, environmental degradation and social inequality. In the same way, the creation of a truly inclusive economy and society in the 21st century requires a renewed level of civic and municipal engagement to develop new approaches and solutions.


Kersten England is Chief Executive of Bradford Council. Look out for the Inclusive Growth Commissions final recomendations and principles into practice guide out next week. 

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  • As someone whose family have long been Bradford-based but who have all left to seek new opportunities, I was greatly encouraged to visit with my octogenarian father last summer and sense a spirit of physical renewal.  Great to read these matching words about social change.