“The power of the OECD Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth Initiative is that national borders don’t get in the way of our conversation about how to address inequalities in our cities. When Mayors and Leaders build their city strategies centred on inclusive growth, this means getting everyone to benefit from the economy to their full potential. It means raising our productivity, increasing skills levels, more innovation and better infrastructure. The coronavirus crisis has increased inequalities, and the rising unemployment rates of young people is of particular concern. We must do all we can to support vulnerable groups and be prepared to deal with long term consequences of the pandemic.”
– Councillor James Lewis
Councillor James Lewis has been Leader of Leeds City Council since February 2021. He previously held the position of Deputy Leader of the Council since May 2015. He is the Council’s Executive Board Member for Resources, a position he has also held since May 2015.
The Resources portfolio includes oversight of the Council’s financial management, corporate planning and policy development, Human Resources, and the digital and smart city agenda.
Cllr Lewis was first elected as a Labour Councillor to represent the Barwick and Kippax Ward, now the Kippax and Methley Ward, in 2003. He has held numerous positions during his time as a Councillor, including being the Chair of Metro (West Yorkshire’s Integrated Transport Authority) between 2011 and 2015.
The City of Leeds is taking an inclusive approach to promote Leeds as a compassionate city with a strong economy and improve the lives and life chances of everyone in Leeds. The council is working with local businesses and other organisations to focus on practical actions grouped into three pillars and outlined in the Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy. The pillars include Inclusive Growth, Health and Wellbeing, and Tackling the Climate Emergency.
Inclusive Growth will raise the city’s productivity; increase skills levels, foster innovation and develop infrastructure, and aims to generate more money for public services, reduce unemployment and increase wages, for example, council’s adoption of a ‘real living wage’. During the first year of implementation of the strategy, Channel 4 media company established national headquarters in the city, Leeds was the only UK city to receive an Outstanding Ofsted rating for Children’s Services, and Leeds was the only city to record a decline in childhood obesity.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Leeds seeks to return the city to economic prosperity whilst maintaining inclusive growth.
Leeds City Council has joined the national Inclusive Growth Network, an initiative of the Centre for Progressive Policy, formed in recognition of the need for a new approach in light of the Coronavirus pandemic and resulting unemployment and economic pressures. The network brings together 12 councils and combined authorities to lead the drive for an inclusive economic recovery. The first year of support provided through the network aims to advance the ‘good work’ agenda within local communities, repurpose local skills provision to respond to COVID-19 impacts, drive a green recovery, tackle health inequalities and leverage community wealth through local levers such as procurement. The network will ensure members can learn from and support one another, get access to innovation and insight from UK partners, while also connecting with a growing international network of institutions and initiatives designed to create inclusive economic growth.
Leeds is working with the non-for-profit organisation, the Social Progress Imperative, to implement a robust measurement of inclusive growth that will allow the city to record and analyse progress across the city’s 33 wards (districts). The measurement framework, known as the Social Progress Index (SPI), will track Leeds’ annual progress against a range of indicators linked to three broad concepts: Basic Human Needs, Foundation of Well-being and Opportunity. The SPI will enable Leeds to identify and implement policies and programmes that will drive faster social progress across the whole city.
Leeds is striving to become a digitally inclusive city where everyone in Leeds has the opportunity to access the internet. With more services moving online it has never been more crucial for people to have access to the digital world to help manage their money, health, housing, leisure and mental wellbeing. 100% Digital Leeds takes a furthest first approach by working with the most likely to be digitally excluded. By focusing initial efforts on supporting and upskilling members of the community for whom existing challenges make it harder for them to engage e.g. disability, learning difficulties, poverty, homelessness, language barriers, long-term health conditions, social isolation, people can be better informed, more employable, feel more independent, and live happier, healthier, easier lives. Example projects include the launch of a network of Digital Health Hubs – physical spaces in the community that provide support and equipment to people to allow them to access online health services e.g. Doctor services, prescriptions and National Health Service apps.