It’s time for change in the UK’s core cities

Clare-Goff-headshot-300x300Welcome to New Start in Greater Manchester. This is the first in a series of editions of the magazine from the UK’s ten core cities. Over the course of the next year we will produce our monthly edition from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Newcastle, Nottingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Glasgow and Liverpool.

In each city we will map the people and projects working towards a local economic alternative, hold a workshop in each region to catalyse local action, and build a narrative of what local economic resilience looks like and the concrete steps needed to achieve it.

This work is supported by the Friends Provident Foundation and the New Economics Foundation is our lead partner for the project.

We embarked on this work as Greater Manchester was announced as the first city region to be granted devolved powers, with west and south Yorkshire following close behind. It is timely then, as English regions make bids to have greater control over their economic and social story, to look at the opportunities that devolution brings them to forge a different path.

For while many of our cities are thriving, there is increasing divergence between the rosy economic picture and growing levels of poverty driven by welfare reform and low-paid work. Many post industrial cities boast of their thriving city centres, but travel just a mile beyond the new shopping malls and tram networks and you will find communities left behind for 30 years with no sign that the trickle down promised by mainstream economics will reach them any time soon.

Manchester has the opportunity to use devolution to inspire

and engage the energy of its people and forge a new contract for social progress

Can devolution break that cycle and offer an economic alternative? What does that alternative look like and how can it be brought about?

These are the questions we are asking in this Manchester edition and as we journey across the UK in the coming year.

In Manchester we looked at a number of alternative models in the city, including the voluntary sector’s vision of a Civil Economy, in which social and economic targets are more closely aligned and the strength of the ‘social sector’ is valued and supported.

While the region’s social enterprises and community organisations provide jobs and stimulate enterprise particularly in more marginalised communities, they often do so with little support from the public sector. Many are battered from years of cuts and from the shift towards ever larger commissioning contracts and delivery of services. Local charities told us that their engagement with Manchester Council in particular was at an all time low.

A renewed relationship between the local public sector and the voluntary and community sector could mark a new era for the city. Commissioning models that suited smaller players and co-production projects that reformed and democratised services could put the region at the forefront of social progress.

Manchester’s radical history still bubbles under the surface and its people are proud and pro-active. Where else could a former miner’s bath-house be transformed into a local cinema and arts centre using the energy of local residents? Or a local food market use its profits to fund emerging enterprise?

As we outline in our main article in this edition, Manchester has the opportunity to use its devolution deal to inspire and engage the energy of its people, forge a new contract for social progress, and be the model for an alternative economic path. One that may have pleased the man known as Mr Manchester – Tony Wilson – who once proudly said about his home town: ‘We do things differently here’.

Read New Start in Greater Manchester here or click on the links below:

Devo Manc: A new contract for social progress?

Q & A with Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester Council

The Kindling Trust: Creating a virtuous food economy

Forever Manchester: Community building in Moston

Ten Ideas for Change in Greater Manchester

  • If you would like to get involved in our work mapping the local economic alternative in the UK’s 10 core cities please get in touch by emailing [email protected].
Clare Goff is editor of New Start magazine
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