IGN Insights

Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy

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Tom Riordan

Chief Executive at Leeds City Council

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In Leeds, we have been focussing on delivering inclusive growth since we published our first strategy in 2018. We’ve just updated this to set out our new ambition up to 2030, celebrating what we got right, what challenges remain and what we need to do more of as a city to create growth that benefits everyone. We’ve developed nine big ideas to do this, themed around people, place and productivity.

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We have much to be proud of in Leeds. We have secured over £100m grant funding since we declared the Climate Emergency in 2019 to support our green ambitions, and the city has been ranked by Forbes as the place in the UK showing the best progress towards reaching net zero. Through our IGN membership, the Centre for Progressive Policy has supported this journey by providing analysis of the economic risks and opportunities to help inform our thinking on how the city’s assets can best support inclusive green growth[1].

We’ve built over £4 billion worth of large-scale development projects over the last 10 years, and have completed over £750 million of investment since 2018 to Connect Leeds – a series of projects that are decarbonising transport, creating healthier streets, spaces and communities, flood alleviation and transforming the city centre, finally we welcomed Channel 4 to the city, and now have one of the fastest growing Film and TV sectors in the UK.

All this is set in the context of public services and local government coming under real financial pressure. We need to work smarter to try and tackle poverty and inequality against this backdrop.

One example we’re trialling in Leeds is home care. For too long care workers have had to criss-cross the city as agencies work in silos. We want to create a placed based approach where care appointments are carried out by workers who live in those neighbourhoods, reducing time and money spent travelling, providing a better service and paying workers in a fairer way for their time.

Transport continues to be a major issue in the north. Since I started at the council, the headline of Leeds being the largest city in western Europe without a Mass Transit system has hung over the city. This really does impact our ability to deliver growth, currently only 38% of Leeds’ population can reach the city centre in 30 minutes using public transport, costing Leeds £2.8 billion in 2022 due to lost productivity. Our commitment to Mass Transit remains steadfast in our new strategy and we’re working hard with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to deliver this.

Another aspect is the Leeds Anchors network, pulling together some of our city’s largest institutions that can make real difference in the city. Some of these anchors are based in poorer, inner-city parts of Leeds and by engaging with these communities they have been able to offer well-paid jobs to local people and spend more of their money with local businesses by changing their procurement structures. Following the success of our anchors programme we are now launching the Leeds Business Anchors network, taking the same ‘anchor’ approach and empowering key businesses to work together to improve the city they call home.

The anchors also help feed into our Future Talent Plan which brings together employers and skills providers to open up opportunities. For example, in the digital sector this means linking jobs and training to businesses, with our Digital Careers Fair being attended by thousands of people at Leeds Arena. It also means making sure that everyone has the essential digital skills they need to get online and adapt through our award winning 100% Digital Leeds programme.

Measuring our success has always been difficult, as traditional economic indicators don’t tell the full story. This is why we have turned to the Social Progress Index, a measurement framework model designed by the Social Progress Imperative. This does two things, firstly it makes it easier to understand how well the city is doing and where our strengths and weaknesses lie, by using different indicators covering people’s basic human needs, supporting their wellbeing, and giving people opportunity. Second, it allows us to track data at a local level so we can see how each of our 33 wards are comparing to one another.

Delivering our strategy requires ‘radical collaboration’ which we’ve named Team Leeds and it underpins everything the council does. Businesses can help us determine the future we want, and we’re asking them to do more to support local communities where they are based. Meanwhile we in public sector need to be more enterprising and efficient in delivering the services people need and creating places people feel proud of.