In many ways Stockport it is a microcosm of the United Kingdom as a whole, a place with widely varied employment, skills, transport and housing opportunities and outcomes.
Our borough consistently ranks as one of the top five unequal places in the country, with areas the department for communities and local government assesses as falling both within the extremes of the one per cent most and one per cent least deprived in England.
A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation identified what many of us have known for some time – the poorest urban areas in our country do not always benefit from the economic growth that we experience at a national or regional level. Even when a city region is enjoying growth overall, communities are often left behind and are unable to access the economic opportunities that are being created on their doorstep. Deprivation can be masked by the relative success of a city region.
Labour needs to address both poverty, not having enough money to get by on, and deprivation, that has a wider definition relating to a lack of resources and opportunities.
While Greater Manchester continues to experience strong economic growth, last year 39,300 people (14 per cent) and 7,990 children (16 per cent) in Stockport were living in deprivation. This is despite the fact that our borough is generally seen to have excellent educational, employment and leisure opportunities and is a place where people from across the north-west and indeed the rest of the country want to come to live and work.
At a local level there are actions that councils and combined authorities can take to tackle deprivation, but interventions need to be strategic, interventionist and long-term. The model of relying on the free market to raise living standards for all has demonstrably failed.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation hit the nail on the head when they speak about the important of inclusive growth and the central focus for economic strategies in city regions being about connecting local people with jobs and housing.
The barriers to accessing opportunities are often basic – they can be geography, transport or, even more fundamentally, relate to educational and skills outcomes.
Deprivation can be distributed across a number of local authority areas, as it is in Greater Manchester, or alternatively can be concentrated in our core inner cities as occurs elsewhere in the country. This makes bespoke, local interventions all the more important.
Devolution presents Labour councillors and metro-mayors with a unique opportunity to make real progress in tackling deprivation and poverty, tailoring local strategies to our own economic and social needs and breaking the reliance on central government to act.
Creating the conditions for people to succeed wherever they are born and grow-up is not just something local authorities can do, it is something that they must do in order to unlock the human potential of their area and build more cohesive communities. In Stockport we are intervening to raise educational attainment, to improve public transport for those seeking employment opportunities, and to encourage local businesses to train local people to equip them with the skills they need.
The mission of the next Labour government must be to bring people together and ensure everybody benefits when the economy grows, not just those at the top.
In the meantime it is too important to leave people in our most deprived communities waiting for action from a Tory government that will never come.
Alex Ganotis is leader of Stockport metropolitan borough council and a member of the Greater Manchester combined authority.
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