Re-thinking inequalities of place: has Wales failed and London succeeded?
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An over reliance on GDP and GVA per capita metrics has produced the aura of underachievement which hangs over Welsh economic policy and is reinforced by lazy journalistic stereotypes about so-called “left behind places”.
London is not an object of emulation because it is like Los Angeles in Brecht’s poem, the one place that serves as heaven for the rich and hell for the poor. Housing is unaffordable for the young and poor; and an appreciating asset when the average owner occupier made an unearned and untaxed capital gain of nearly £20k per annum 2008-18.
If we change the metrics, we can see Wales as a diverse place which needs new policies that build on its many assets. Residual household income (after housing cost, transport and utilities) shows how many of us as owner occupiers benefit from affordable housing: London households spend £10k a year more than Welsh households but £7k of that goes on housing. This measure also highlights the problem of private renting and too little social housing.
If we are to build on our assets we must pay less attention to top down preoccupations of policy makers and attend more to what matters for ordinary citizens. And that requires a re-evaluation of the role of work and a suite of imaginative new metrics of well-being which will set new priorities. If we triangulate evidence from different sources, our citizens want social infrastructure in their parks and community centres which provide the frame for free or low cost sociability.
There is much to be done and very little of it fits into the deficiency-based frame of economic policy as it has been done for the past 20 years. Is Welsh Government up to the challenge?
Karel Williams, Alliance Manchester Business School
King Edward VII Avenue