The Week

The Week 19 May 2023

India Woodward
Senior Events and Fundraising Officer

This week we’re looking at a DLUHC double bill: levelling up and housing.

This Monday, the Resolution Foundation published a report seeking to unearth the “necessary ingredients for a city to reverse long-term economic underperformance” by evaluating seven post-industrial city case studies. The report found that there were six common characteristics to a "turnaround city": an urban and economic development strategy (improving liveability is just as vital as job opportunity); a comprehensive strategy (rather than a piecemeal approach); building on existing strengths rather than trying to reinvent itself; local and regional leadership; significant, stable and long-term funding; and the engagement of a variety of actors.

It is at the peripheries of urban turnaround projects that the deepest challenges lie. In Oldham, Greater Manchester, the third council leader in succession has just been turfed out during the local elections. Oldham, clearly, is not yet reaping the rewards from what Daniel Timms describes as the “Greater Manchester experiment” as policymakers hoped it would, throwing up questions as to whether “the benefits that spill out from city centres have been oversold”.

Oldham is a place where the ambitions of levelling up seem all but impossible: a deeply distrusted local state, and serious deprivation driving entrenched disenchantment among residents. An economic review into Oldham’s situation casts serious doubt on the possibility of spillover and trickle out benefits emanating from Manchester as the city’s economy flourishes. This suggests that, while the empowerment of Combined Authorities continues to be hugely important, a more granular devolution policy — with powers going to local government and communities at smaller scales — might be needed to make a difference in places like Oldham. (We’ll be exploring many of these ideas in our upcoming Manchester conference, Reimagining the Local State).

Which brings us to this week’s changes in housing policy. In a long-awaited step designed to rebalance power between landlords and residents, the Renters’ (Reform) Bill, introduced to Parliament this week, delivers on the Government's commitment to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions, alongside a new ombudsman to help protect residents. This aims to empower renters to challenge their landlords about the state and quality of their homes without fear of losing their home, and comes alongside a new programme launched for social housing tenants to strengthen their position with landlords by knowing their rights better — all good news, even if questions are being raised about new powers for landlords to evict anti-social tenants.

Read of the week:

This week we were struck by an opinion piece in the BMJ highlighting the impact of overmedicalisation in our health system. Mathew reflects on the consensus both on the side of doctors and patients that “over-intervention is an infinitely better option than under-intervention”. The increase in patients consulting GPs demonstrates a societal attitude that lacks confidence in people’s ability to self-manage and the rise of health as a product to consume rather than as something to jointly create. This leads to many people being caught in a vicious cycle of medicating, with interventions for health issues generating side-effects that then require a further package of medication. This raises questions that we are exploring in our work on Reimagining Health: is a bias toward intervention really always better for patients? Are we comfortable with the growing costs of this increasing consumption? The problem is that very few seem to be on the side of reducing overmedicalisation: “there’s no commercial interest in tackling it; nor is it advocated for by patients or charity groups”. Definitely worth a read.