I spent this morning’s commute reading the executive summary of IPPR’s Commission on Economic Justice. The product of a two-year enquiry into the UK economy, the report outlines with devastating clarity the profound economic injustice that scars our country. Too many households no better off than a decade ago; the economy failing to deliver rising living standards for a majority of the population and nearly a million people on zero hours contracts.
None of this comes as a surprise to local government; day in day out, we see in individuals, families and communities experiencing the impact of income inequality and Europe’s most geographically unbalanced economy. But the Commission is not simply a council of despair. Instead it presents a genuinely radical 10-part plan for economic reform to achieve prosperity and justice.
The report is an impressive read for two reasons. The first is what it represents. I remember back in the 1990s, when IPPR convened a Commission on Social Justice. Unlike so many reports and commissions, this one laid out an ambitious agenda of social policy reform and gained traction among politicians and policy makers alike. It has had a lasting impact on public policy debates. The Commission on Economic Justice has similar potential; there are few reports which unite the Archbishop of Canterbury, McKinsey’s global managing partner and a Community Organiser from Citizens UK. But they are three of the commissioners that IPPR brought together; a consensus is already being built.
The second reason it is that it embraces the role of local government rather than neglecting it. It’s rare that a thinktank beyond the local government sector thinks radically about the role of councils’. However, the Commission calls for devolution of economic governance through the creation of four ‘economic executives’ comprising local authority representatives, as well as a rolling out of combined authorities throughout England.
Of course, it’s early days and we are yet to see how much traction the report will gain. But the signs look promising.