Newham Council to be first in London to use health, wellbeing and happiness to measure progress in Covid-19 recovery strategy

Newham Council to be first in London to use health, wellbeing and happiness to measure progress in Covid-19 recovery strategy.

Newham will become the first borough in London to use livelihood, well-being and happiness as its prime measure of economic success as part of an ambitious recovery strategy in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz today (22 July) launched the Council’s Towards a Better Newham Covid-19 Recovery Strategy to an online audience of local businesses, charities and other voluntary sector partners. The strategy sets out the foundation for how the Council will respond to the economic impact of Covid-19 as it rebuilds a better Newham. The strategy represents a fundamental shift, placing the health and wellbeing of residents and race equality, central to the Council’s aspirations of inclusive growth, quality jobs and fairness in Newham.

Newham has been inspired by New Zealand, the first country in the world to replace Gross Domestic Product as a key indicator of its economic success. It instead focuses on the wellbeing and happiness of its population as a principle measure of progress.

The Covid-19 Recovery strategy will also ensure that every resident under 25 will be able to access a range of positive activities to support their long-term prosperity, with a new Youth Empowerment Fund to be launched in the coming weeks to help them overcome barriers to economic participation.

Additionally, the strategy will focus on the borough’s six town centres and 13 local high streets as the focus of investment and revival, so that they become centres of community and civic activity as well as commerce and business. Inspired by Paris, the strategy will also transform these into ’15-minute neighbourhoods’, enabling people to access all social, civic and economic essentials within a 15-minute walk or cycle ride, to meet the Council’s air quality and climate change commitments.

Mayor Fiaz said: “We will be the first borough in London to adopt more appropriate measures of economic success in light of the Covid-19 reality that faces us. We are going to be prioritising the personal wellbeing, health, and happiness of our residents, instead of the traditional measures of growth, prosperity, and land value that has framed measures of economic productivity and success in this country, but which mask some of the enduring features of poverty and inequality Newham has.

“We are at a critical moment in Newham. Covid-19 has laid bare the endemic inequality that exists in our borough and wider society, and it has exposed the increased vulnerability of those most socially and economically deprived. The disproportionate impact of the virus in places scarred by deprivation and in communities enriched by diversity, has hurt our people.

“We know clearly, if we ever needed a reminder, that poverty and race inequality lowers your life chances. It manifests in Covid-19 mortality rates, in health inequality, and in jobs that expose the precarious daily choices being made by so many of our residents to simply earn a living. The monumental impact that Covid-19 has wrought on our lives and ways of living requires a radical rethink and bold interventions to accelerate change in Newham for the better. It will require more investment and adapting of our existing programmes and resources. It will also demand a range of behavioural changes and a readiness for future disruptions of whatever kind, be it another virus, climate change or something not yet known to us.”

The strategy focuses on two distinct stages of activity: recovery and reorientation. Recovery focuses upon the next 12 months as the Council responds to sustained challenges for individuals and businesses. Reorientation will follow, with the focus changing to making the fundamental changes to create the inclusive economy the Council wants, to address inequalities, including race inequalities, as well as tackling the poverty and deprivation that residents still face.

The Mayor added: “This moment must be seized as a catalyst to initiate a sea change in the agenda I started in the borough two years ago when I stepped into office, through our Community Wealth Building agenda. We must accelerate the new methods and collaborative endeavours that were initiated by this global pandemic of unprecedented proportions.

“Our recovery strategy is a fundamental shift to embed an economy which places the health and wellbeing of our residents’ and race equality central to our aspirations of inclusive growth, quality jobs and fairness in Newham. That’s why, as we reimagine a better borough, economic security, health, equality and the environment will be the focus of our rehabilitation and recovery.”

The strategy, which is supported by an immediate action plan, is built around eight pillars of activity focused on the phases of recovery and reorientation.

The Council has looked at best projects from around the world and has come up with a programme of activity which it believes will be genuinely impactful and can change Newham’s economic story.

  • Pillar 1: The Council will adopt more appropriate measures of economic success, prioritising prosperity, personal wellbeing and happiness ahead of the traditional Government-endorsed measures of growth, productivity and land value.
  • Pillar 2: The Council will support every resident aged under 25 to participate in positive activity which supports their long-term prosperity, and in the coming weeks the Council will announce details of its new Youth Empowerment Fund.
  • Pillar 3: The Council will develop a consolidated service to ensure that all residents can access the support they need to cope in recession and thrive in our new economy.
  • Pillar 4: The Council will ensure that residents are healthy enough to have more rewarding engagement with the economy.
  • Pillar 5: The Council will support the development of ’15-minute neighbourhoods’ across its town centres and high streets so that residents can access all social, civic and economic essentials by a 15-minute walk or cycle ride for healthy and happy communities.
  • Pillar 6: The Council will quicken the greening of Newham’s economy, capitalising on local sparks to support evolution as London’s greenest economy.
  • Pillar 7: The Council will get a fairer deal for Newham workers, making sure work is rewarding and enjoyable for those employed in the borough.
  • Pillar 8: The Council will welcome investment, but only where this supports its objectives and delivers benefits to the borough as a whole.

Mayor Fiaz added: “The economic impact of the pandemic on Newham is going to be significant. We estimate it has cost us £61m so far. Newham also has the highest number of furloughed workers of any local authority in the London, with 50,000 jobs at stake.

“Our Covid-19 recovery strategy will be making changes where required to our existing community wealth building and inclusive economy strategies so that we can deal with the economic impact that the virus has had on Newham during this time and in the months and years ahead. But three things will be central to this approach: the absolute prominence of public health; bringing out more explicitly the Council’s work in tackling race equality in Newham, where 73 per cent of residents are from Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority communities; and maintaining our commitment to tackling climate emergency.

“A long history of Government austerity mean we must be bold and innovative. We will have high expectations of our partners and want to work together with them towards our aspiration of a happier, healthier and more prosperous Newham.”

The Mayor demonstrated that the strategy was beginning immediately with the a joint announcement today (22 July) with the Mayor of London of a £13m Good Growth Fund to stimulate and support innovative and transformational projects in Newham’s Royal Docks, London’s only Enterprise Zone, including those driven by residents and local businesses and organisations to make the area a more attractive place to live, work, visit and invest.

The launch of the Good Growth Fund will be followed by actions routed in the principles and aspirations of the Council’s Community Wealth Building Action Plan and Inclusive Economy Strategy, including:

  • launching a Youth Endowment Fund to give under 25s in Newham the best changes for a brighter future
  • redesigning and rebranding the Council’s jobs brokerage service Newham Workplace to create a better engagement with residents
  • working with private sector partners who are prepared to sign up to ambitious business pledges to support residents
  • mapping of Council property assets so they can be used better to support the Council’s objectives
  • delivering new investments in the Queens Market area at Green Street, Upton Park, and Stratford town centre, to support the long term reorientation of economic activity in high streets.

The Mayor concluded: “The explicit focus of the strategy, whose foundations lie in community wealth building, is the needs of our residents. We will ensure that they have everything they need to deal with the challenges of recession and thrive as our refocused economy recovers. We will support activity which directly contributes to them leading more healthier, prosperous and happy lives in Newham.”

You can read the Towards a Better Newham Covid-19 Recovery Strategy

Published: 22 Jul 2020