Two futures for the North East?


In my posts I like only to be complimentary about other people's writing and research. 'If you haven't got anything nice to say, don't say anything at all', my Grandma used to opine. (Although she didn't always stick to her own injunction - blaming attacks on her lime trees on butterflies released in Hyde Park as a tribute to Brian Jones by the remaining Rolling Stones she never stopped referring to Sir Mick as 'that hideous Jagger creature'.)

On my way to Newcastle I am reading the IPPR Commission on Public Services in the North East report.

I'm off to speak about public services to an IPPR / RSA audience in Newcastle. My core message will be that the region faces a risk spiral and an opportunity spiral.

The first is that the region comes out of recession on a low growth, low entrepreneurship, low employment trajectory. This then combines with public spending cuts which hit a large dependent population very hard, adding to poor social outcomes and social division. In addition the public spending squeeze takes money out of quality of life areas like arts and public space, leading to the area being less attractive to talented people and investors and thus exacerbating the problems of economic dynamism.

The opportunity cycle starts with a total commitment to public service innovation. Given how much of the regional economy is in the public sector any significant improvement can reap major gains in service outputs. In addition - given the inexorable increase in global investment in education, health and social care, community safety etc - the region can use an emerging reputation for service innovation to improve its image, attract investment and talent. In this context other advantages of the region - particularly the scope for a high quality of life - can come into play as the region explores not just the method of public services but the goals in the context of a growing desire for new more sustainable and humanistic models of growth.

So, two futures in prospect.

There is already public sector innovation in the North East (Newcastle Council's in-house modernisation and South Tyneside's work on well-being are examples). There is also a dynamic HE sector which helps provide the R&D backing for a regional innovation strategy (maybe NESTA might want to help out too).

The possibilities are great if the leadership is there. And, on this, I hope to find out more in the next few hours.

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