At long last, the economy is growing. But it is not translating into well-paid, or even better paid, jobs nationwide because of deep structural problems in our fractured economy – mass youth unemployment, skills shortages, too few high-growth companies which innovate and export, poor infrastructure, and excessive centralisation on Whitehall.
The facts are stark. Nearly one in five under-24-year-olds are out of work or training. Four-fifths of net new jobs since 2010 are in London. Research and development and productivity are far lower than for our main competitors. We have barely a third as many young apprentices as the Germans; our infrastructure is rated 28th globally by the World Economic Forum; and the United Kingdom’s balance of payments are the worst for 50 years.
These deep-seated problems can only be tackled with a long-term plan for better jobs – not just more jobs; and for strong growth companies nationwide, which innovate and export.
On skills, we need a big increase in the quality and quantity of youth apprenticeships, with business-led bodies, including chambers of commerce and Local Enterprise Partnerships, persuading far more employers to offer them (barely one in 10 do so now). We also need better technical education for teenagers, better careers and employment advice in schools, and more good maths and science teachers.
On innovation and growth companies, we need more applied innovation centres on the model of the successful German ‘Fraunhofer’ institutes, backed by the government and the private sector. Small companies need far more access to the huge market for public sector procurement and research contracts, which the United States experience has shown is crucial to scaling up successful small enterprises, backed by a new Small Business Administration. Better access to finance for growing companies, and support for exporters and companies capable of exporting, are also vital.
On infrastructure, we need an independent infrastructure commission to set out national infrastructure requirements for the next 20 years, and a government prepared to act on its recommendations.
We also need to create strong city and county regions across England, with powers and budgets handed down from Whitehall to promote skills, infrastructure and economic development. ‘Combined authorities’ should be encouraged, whereby local authorities across city and county regions combine for strategic purposes, similar to the role of the Mayor of London. Independent Local Enterprise Partnerships need to be strengthened to give businesses a direct say over policy priorities.
This is an agenda to mend the fractured economy – vital to Labour’s plans for the future.
Andrew Adonis is shadow minister for infrastructure and former secretary of state for transport. He tweets @Andrew_Adonis
Andrew Adonis’s independent review for the Labour party, Mending the Fractured Economy, is published today.
Photo: Ewan Munro
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