To outline the Council’s definition of inclusive growth and measurement parameters.
The Head of Inclusive Growth advised Members that the report detailed the Draft Inclusive Growth Outcomes Framework with proposals to measure impact and outcomes. It was recognised the Council could not deliver Inclusive Growth in isolation and that involvement in delivering Inclusive Growth was required from Council partners, the business and community sectors and residents in order to be successful.
Mr Mike Hawking (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) introduced himself and explained that the organisational focus of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation was to address and alleviate poverty in the United Kingdom. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation had been addressing Inclusive Growth for a number of years, generally at a local authority level throughout the U.K.
Mr Harding observed that the concepts of Inclusive Growth as detailed within the report to the Scrutiny Board were sound in understanding Inclusive Growth. The challenge before the Council was turning the Inclusive Growth Strategy into delivering tangible outcomes in communities within the borough.
In respect of the metrics detailed in the report, Mr Hawking noted that they were broadly addressing the right areas for attention, but that there may be too many metrics included. There was a slight concern as to how outcomes and data arising relating to specific households and communities would be fully captured and further actioned. Members were further advised that some measures would be impacted by external factors for which the Council had no control over, with the example given of the relationship between child poverty and Universal Credit arrangements.
Mr Hawking further noted that the Council’s Procurement Strategy demonstrated good ambition in establishing the significance of delivering Social Value, but that the future challenge lay with how Procurement and Commissioning Managers would deliver the Social Value framework to effect real change in the borough.
Having received the presentations, Members of the Scrutiny Board raised a number of related question, which in summary included the following matters:
Councillor Williams noted that with regard to the definition of Inclusive Growth, it sounded very much ‘business as usual’ in that Inclusive Growth was viewed as providing an equal opportunity to benefit from economic growth, which had broadly been the definition used over many years and could be open to misinterpretation. Councillor Williams noted that the WMCA spoke of establishing new models of economic growth in the West Midlands region and of ‘levelling up’ and therefore queried whether the correct definition for Inclusive Growth was in fact being applied. Clarity of objectives and deliverables through the Inclusive Growth Strategy was also raised as significant by Councillor Williams.
Councillor McLoughlin referenced the definition of Inclusive Growth provided in paragraph 6.7.1 in the report (Statutory Equality Duty) and stated that greater clarity was required as to what was indeed meant by Inclusive Growth. Councillor Williams proposed that greater emphasis be placed on ‘Equal Opportunities’ and referenced that other definitions given for Inclusive Growth made reference to ‘Equal Sharing’.
Councillor McLoughlin commented that it was also vital to receive external input into the Inclusive Growth Strategy, with emphasis also placed upon equality and equity within the Strategy. With regard to the metrics detailed within the Strategy, there were perhaps too many indicative outcomes, but it was recognised that with time it would become clearer which specific measures provided tangible change and impact. Councillor McLoughlin observed that simplifying the outcomes specified against each action may assist in clearly identifying where any outcome gaps remained over time.
Councillor Howell noted that the challenge with delivering the Inclusive Growth Strategy lay in driving forward those initiatives addressing equality gaps resulting in sustainable change. Targeted resources would be required in order to achieve this. Councillor Howell noted that other policies and initiatives also had a role to play in delivering Inclusive Growth, such as the Borough Wide Economic Strategy, and that a clear direction in establishing priorities for resource allocation in the short, medium and long term was also required.
Councillor Hodgson noted the report’s reference to the social economy and voluntary sectors and stated that these sectors alone could not be relied upon to deliver Inclusive Growth in the Borough. The Council did have the means, however, to influence a range of other sectors, such as health, housing, transport and community building, to contribute towards delivering Inclusive Growth for residents across the Borough. With regard to the definition of Inclusive Growth, Councillor Hodgson supported the adoption of the wording in paragraph 6.7.1 of the report as a working definition for Inclusive Growth.
Councillor Ryan highlighted that skills and educational opportunities had a significant role to play in levelling up and delivering the Inclusive Growth agenda through greater access to employment opportunities, both within the borough and regionally.
Councillor Parker stated that he felt there was something of an omission within the report in relation to the wider digital economy and the role technology had to play generally in closing the economic and skills gap.
Mr Mike Hawking (JRF) informed the Scrutiny Board that recognising structural barriers and causes of poverty was an important factor in addressing Inclusive Growth. Access to employment opportunities and family circumstances were often found to be barriers which challenged individual’s opportunities for accessing employment. Frequently, it was also found that it was not a lack of aspiration on the individual’s part to secure employment, but rather a lack of fit between the individual’s career aspiration and the type of employment being offered or available. Family environment was also found to be a significant factor in influencing a person’s ambitions and expectations towards the type of employment and career path possible, with shared family experiences, aspirations and informal networks also playing very significant roles.
Councillor McLoughlin queried if in order to address the many social factors which formed a person’s individual aspiration whether greater use of mixed housing development should be encouraged to include affordable, social rented and private development units within any new commercial developments.
Councillor Parker noted that the Council had a 40% affordable housing condition in place as part of the planning and development process for new development and stated that access to skills and training opportunities was a key element in providing employment opportunities leading to Inclusive Growth.
With regard to metrics, Councillor McLoughlin highlighted the danger of fragmentation for some outcomes, specifically as to how they related to each other. In respect of the Growth Model, Councillor McLoughlin wished to see greater use of and reference to the Raworth Growth Model within the Councils Inclusive Growth work. As to specifics within the report, Councillor McLoughlin highlighted the following as requiring further attention:
· Access to Open Spaces: This should be amended to Access to Green Spaces.
· Air Quality: Was an area of shortfall.
· Number of Local Volunteers: A Ward level breakdown was required.
· Increasing Health Expectancy: More attention was required in order to close health inequality gaps.
· Current CO2 Figures: Further actions were required to reduce current figures.
· Metrics: Greater reference to the Raworth ‘doughnut’ Growth Model to ascertain why some people were falling short of attaining basic living standards to include a metric specifically addressing accommodation needs and undertake further refinement of some of the metrics detailed in the report.
The Head of Inclusive Growth advised the Scrutiny Board that the Outcomes Framework had been cross-checked across all existing Council strategies, including the refreshed Council Plan, to ensure a cohesive approach towards delivering Inclusive Growth objectives in the borough. Members were further advised that Officers were attempting to clarify what precisely needed to sit within the Inclusive Growth Strategy (for example, objectives of the Health Inequality Strategy) and that further work was on-going to review metrics across the various Council strategies.
Having considered the report, the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board:
i. To Recommend to the Leader of the Council (and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for the Economy) that the Council use data arising from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to support and further develop the Council’s Inclusive Growth Strategy with regard to the public health, education and skills agendas respectively, which were also supporting delivery of the Solihull Inclusive Growth Strategy;
ii. To Recommend to the Leader of the Council (and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for the Economy) that the Council’s definition of Inclusive Growth be further reviewed against paragraph 6.7.1 of the Inclusive Growth Scrutiny Board report;
iii. To Recommend to the Leader of the Council (and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for the Economy) that in order to prevent fragmentation and understand better the inter-dependence of some of the metrics within the Council’s Inclusive Growth Strategy that greater use of and reference to the Raworth Growth Model be included in future Inclusive Growth reports submitted to the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board; and,
iv. To agree that the Economic Development and Managed Growth Scrutiny Board receive further Inclusive Growth reports as part of its Work Programme for the 2021/22 municipal year.