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The Policy Ask with Charlotte Alldritt: “There can be no going back on childcare reform”

The chief executive of the Centre for Progressive Policy on the vital importance of wraparound school provision, adult skills training and adequate devolution.

By Spotlight

Charlotte Alldritt is the chief executive of the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP), a think tank she set up in 2018 that is focused on boosting productivity and inclusive growth across the UK. Alldritt led the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) City Growth and Inclusive Growth commissions, which led to the creation of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and the formalisation of mayoral combined authorities. She worked in the Cabinet Office as a civil servant during the coalition years.

How do you start your working day?

Two cups of tea are essential to help me get the children – aged four and one – out of the door dressed, breakfasted and with lunchboxes in tow. We listen to the main interview slot on the Today programme on the way to nursery, then I’ve got half an hour to absorb the sports headlines and a cultural nugget or two.

What has been your career high?

Listening to Keir Starmer talk about fair growth in his 2022 party conference speech. I set up the CPP in 2018 to develop the idea of inclusive growth (spreading prosperity more fairly between people and places) and to make it happen. Starmer is not a natural conviction politician, but is finding his voice and singing from the CPP hymn sheet!

[See also: Andrew Marr: Keir Starmer must not panic]

What’s been the most challenging moment of your career?

Leaving Whitehall to run the City Growth Commission, an independent inquiry on how to increase economic growth across the UK. In the wake of the financial crash, HM Treasury seized on every half-formed idea to resuscitate productivity and rebalance the economy. It became challenging to keep up with George Osborne’s appetite for announcements, devising and pushing ever more ambitious policy. But it resulted in the Northern Powerhouse and catalysed devolution to combined authorities.

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THANK YOU

If you could give your younger self some career advice, what would it be?

Not to take an unpaid internship when starting out. Thankfully they’ve stopped this practice, but it seemed the only way to catch a break in public policy back then.

Which political figure inspires you?

Rachel Reeves has grown as a politician, working with Starmer to establish trust and confidence in a prospective Labour government. Should Labour win she’d be the first female Chancellor of the Exchequer, marking the gradual shift I’ve noticed over the past 15 years away from “women do soft, social policy while the men do the hard economics”. About time.

What UK policy or fund is the government getting right?

The Budget redefined childcare as a critical piece of economic infrastructure. There are significant risks still facing the sector, but extending support, and acknowledging the importance of wraparound care before and after school, is a huge step for women and the inclusiveness of our economy. There can be no going back.

[See also: Feminism Against Progress by Mary Harrington review]

And what policy should the UK government scrap?

The annual local government finance settlement is debilitating and degrading. Councils in England are given barely 12 weeks’ notice of their budget for the following financial year. Without two- to three-year settlements, places can’t make long-term, strategic decisions – a problem compounded by the scale of fragmentation and ringfencing of other funding streams.

What upcoming UK policy or law are you most looking forward to?

The trailblazer deals for Greater Manchester and West Midlands, finalised in the recent Budget, could be the biggest single lever the government has to foster regional growth. Coupled with the establishment of regional select committees, there is now a route to transform the constitutional underpinnings of the English state, to elevate the democratic status of mayors in their areas and in the national policymaking arena, and to put the economy on a fairer, more sustainable footing.

What piece of international government policy could the UK learn from?

Outside London and the South East we’ve encouraged a preponderance of low-skilled, low-wage economies. We’ve failed nearly half of young people leaving school without good qualifications and hollowed out further education. It doesn’t need to be this way. Other countries grasp the vital role of adult skills training, and the value of investing in it, far better than the UK does.

If you could pass one law this year, what would it be?

I wouldn’t. Despite rare exceptions, the state has forgotten how to function and its capacity to deliver real change is dwindling. I could pass a law, but we’d be better off rebuilding an effective, integrated system of central, regional and local government, geared up to work with the private sector and civil society to make a difference.

[See also: The uncomfortable truths of Hag feminism]

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