The growing consensus about the need for greening the economy should give the Croydon Climate Change Commission more confidence in its proposals.
Yesterday’s Guardian is very useful if we link a number of the news and analysis articles. 700,000 job redundancies are predicted in the coming months. How many can we expect in Croydon, and in which areas of economic activity? How many businesses are involved in innovation industrial and technological design and manufacturing which would be capable of adjusting their activities?
There is growing consensus for greening the world economy: the International Monetary Fund, a report from the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, and now the Confederation of British Industry.
The OECD report calls for a green economy approach based on the following principles:
· Environmental sustainability
· Rising well-being (rather than simply higher incomes)
· Lower levels of inequality
· More resilient economies
The CBI calls for creating jobs and saving energy by retrofitting houses and buildings to more energy efficient, developing sustainable aviation fuels, and creating a hydrogen economy.
Alternative Economic Strategy v. Free Market Principles
The Guardian’s economic expert Larry Elliott points out that the Government’s economic reaction to the COVID crisis owes ‘more to Tony Benn’s alternative economic strategy (AES) than to free-market principles.’ He draws attention to former Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’’ call for a green plan based on decarbonisation projects, that was part of the Labour General Election Manifesto.
Elliott suggests that the way forward ‘is to harness the best of the market – its ability to adapt and innovate – with the power of the state in order to bring about economic transformation. Carefully nurturing the technologies and industries of the future needs to be part of the mix.’
Whether the Government will go far as far as this remains to be seen. In March it required BT to fulfil a Universal Service Obligation to provide everyone with broadband connection. Today’s Guardian exposes the enormous charges BT is making to isolated customers. This is an example of the failure of many businesses to be adaptive and innovative. Labour’s election promise re-broadband connectivity was derided at the time. Yet the COVID crisis has shown how important broadband connectivity is.
If there is to be partnership between private enterprise and the State then some changes will be need such as:
· changing company law to build in the principles of sustainability and greening and long-term objectives rather than short-term shareholder gain;
· creating regional economic development structures that learn the lessons of the problems of those under Labour;
· re-training redundant workers to have the skills to be employed in green jobs;
· funding research and development in Universities on green technologies.
The way forward is also going to depend on a constructive partnership between central and local government, as delivery will be on the ground. That will require:
(1) Fairer funding for authorities like Croydon
(2) Meeting all authorities COVID action costs
(3) Economic development funding
Surveying The Local Economy
Although it is facing a drastic financial crisis, the Council will need to spend money to better understand what is happening to the local economy.
It should survey every business from the high street and corner shops to the large employers about how they have been affected by COVID and the resultant economic recession, how they see their future economic prospects, and what help they need.
Such a survey should not be simply on-line as most small businesses will not know about it. They will all need to be visited and interviewed. This will require a large number of people to undertake it, and may be something that could be done using students in partnership with Croydon College, Roehampton and South Bank Universities. If a resurgence of COVID limits this then businesses could be interviewed over the telephone and via email.
Supporting The Unemployed
Having taken part in a Zoom discussion yesterday afternoon, it is clear that another challenge to be addressed is how can the unemployed be supported. Many of those living in Croydon will have lost jobs elsewhere in London and Surrey. Many of those who will have worked in Croydon will live elsewhere. They will become isolated due to the ending of daily contact with fellow workers, the fact that unemployment and universal credit is now largely undertaken on line not at Job Centre offices.
Trade unions nationally will need to find a way of allowing their unemployed members to remain members and to offer them support services or encourage them to transfer to Croydon’s Unite Community branch. Large numbers of the unemployed will not have been trade unions members. How can these be received and supported?
The Council’s Gateway services and the other organisations offering welfare rights advice and the food banks will need to work even closer together to support the unemployed. Is a new welfare rights strategy needed for the Borough?
Strengthening Croydon Trade Union Organisation
Trade union organisation is also a barrier, in that there is no means by which the different branches in the same union in the same Borough can link together to ensure they know what each their problems are how they can help each other. During the COVID crisis this could be done through Zoom meetings of branch officers. Such inter-linking should also mean that the information going into Croydon TUC will strengthen its role as the co-ordinator of several unions. CTUC should consider having a public newsletter on the issues it is discusses, the representations it makes and its activities, and the help different branches need.