The University of Manchester recently hosted a roundtable event at the House of Commons to explore the potential of a ‘place-based’ policy in tackling inequalities and fostering growth and productivity across the nation.

The concept of a place-based approach acknowledges that one-size-fits-all national policies may not be effective in every community. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of tailored strategies that consider the unique needs and challenges of different localities, leveraging local knowledge and evidence.

Policy@Manchester, the University’s policy engagement unit, organized the event, which brought together a diverse group of participants, including parliamentarians, academics, business leaders, economists, think tanks, and charities. The discussions revolved around various place-based issues, encompassing health, education, sustainability, and economic disparities.

This initiative followed the recent release of “Power in Place,” a compilation of nine articles authored by University of Manchester academics. The collection delves into regional inequalities and levelling up, aiming to shed light on pertinent issues and potential solutions.

Several of the speakers at the roundtable also contributed to the 44-page document which was published just days before the death of former Head of the Civil Service, Lord Kerslake, who wrote the foreword.

They included Dr Jamie Anderson, Research Fellow in Geography at The University of Manchester, who said; “We need legal binding accountability in all stages of policy for the places we are building and urgently retrofitting. In order to be resilient to climate change and simultaneously level up on well-being outcomes, policy and practice must move beyond valiant target-setting.

“We must now also require science-based estimates of proposal impact at the outset, then monitor progress objectively and collaboratively, requiring effective action when progress is off course.”

Dr Carl Emery and Louisa Dawes, from the Manchester Institute of Education based at the University, also participated in the roundtable.

They commented; “No matter where interest lies, it is clear that a standardised and one size fits all approach to alleviating poverty is not working.

“From an education perspective, an understanding of the local area, be it asset based in terms of business and facilities, or cultural and social, is key for schools to help shape students’ experiences and attitudes as well as building skills and expertise in their own communities, for their own communities.”

Aberconwy MP Robin Millar, who chaired the event, said; “We all recognise there are some huge socioeconomic challenges, and I am convinced a place-based lens brings an important, relevant perspective.

“As an MP in North Wales I recognise the huge difference between our coastal communities and the rural hinterland – and the importance of local and distinctive approaches for each.

“Unlocking this needs politicians who seek to listen, enable and empower rather than just hold onto old ideas and structures.”

Power in Place can be read and downloaded from the Policy@Manchester website