As each news cycle tells us, we’re living in uncertain and insecure times. It’s easy to feel disempowered and disengaged when the world is changing so rapidly around us. Leaders of all political leanings are struggling to respond to the failures of globalisation and in many cases – across the pond being a prime example – their solutions are looking increasingly unpalatable. So what do we do when the world is moving in ways that we can’t control or don’t identify with?
For me, it’s more important than ever that we locate ourselves strongly, by connecting with a physical place and with our own values. In Croydon, that’s just what we’ve done. Over the last six months we’ve brought together employers and employees to answer two questions. What do we really want our town to look like as it grows? And how can we really ensure that the vision that we have is delivered?
We discussed a vision of a place where communities benefit from change; where secure, meaningful employment means that those communities share the spoils of growth, and are then able to share those benefits back. A common thread emerged from our meetings: a desire to develop a Croydon that sustains its people, its culture, and its businesses by sustainably growing them in unison, for the benefit of others, not at their expense.
Croydon’s economy was recently named one of the fastest growing in the UK. That’s great news of course, but we all know that too many of our people still face real difficulties entering a good job in our borough, and too many are earning low wages in poor conditions. The result? A quality of life that is far too low for our workers and their families. How then to realise the vision discussed, and ensure that it’s durable? The network of employers that came together is now taking a lead by launching a Good Employer Charter and forming a network of Good Employers that will work together to do business responsibly, enabling both our employers and employees to benefit as our economy grows.
To help our communities to flourish the Good Employer Charter calls upon our employers to take action in four areas: pay, employ, buy, and include.
- Firstly, pay the London Living Wage, a non-statutory hourly rate set independently and updated annually by the Living Wage Foundation to reflect the cost of living in the capital. Currently this stands at £9.75 an hour.
- Secondly, employ. Employers are asked to create employment and training opportunities for local people by working with Croydon Works, the council’s jobs brokerage service that provides a free to use recruitment service to link employers to high quality, job-ready potential employees from within our borough.
- Thirdly, buy: support the local economy by investing in the local supply chain and local businesses. Organisations will be able to use the council to promote procurement and supply chain opportunities to the town via our Value Croydon approach.
- Lastly, include: employers sign up to embrace the principles of equality and fairness and implement this practically through approaches such as flexible working and disability access.
Good Employer approaches will help to change the lives of Croydon’s citizens. But more than that, they can also shape the identity of our town, making it a place that genuinely thrives for our people by building a local economy that harnesses everyone’s creativity and potential to ensure long-term sustainable growth and good work for all.
We’ve all seen examples of development that leaves communities behind, regeneration that amounts to gentrification where those at the bottom lose out. Time and again, we’ve seen the urge to throw up shiny new buildings leaving communities living in their shadows. We know what happens when investment in bricks and mortar is not met with investment in community – areas dazzle momentarily, but fizzle out when a newer, brighter development emerges.
So Croydon – as we grow and regenerate – let’s not invest solely in the next shiny thing to come along. Let’s invest in Croydon’s real infrastructure: its people.