In this section, we provide a description of significant aspects of the historical background to contemporary activities concerned with employment-oriented local economic development. The four perspectives on such activity, which we have identified through the study, can be related to this historical background, in terms of the responses made by the state to unemployment and related social problems and the sources of expertise deemed relevant for addressing such problems. In section 4, we discuss the significance of the variation in these sources of expertise and the issue of the absence of a single profession.

Reconstruction and the rise of planning

Throughout the half-century since the end of the Second World War, British Governments have made employment a matter of high priority. In the immediate post-war period, Government policy was oriented towards the maintenance of 'full employment' along with industrial modernisation. The period between the two world wars was characterised by high levels of unemployment, and the fear of a return to this was a significant factor in the election of the Labour Party to Government in 1945. Keynesian economic policies were adopted, and the emphasis upon rebuilding and recovery ensured that, in the switch from military to civilian production and the demobilisation of the armed forces, there were sufficient jobs 1 We should, of course, note that 'full employment' mainly referred to male employment; demobilisation of the armed forces took place alongside the 'demobilisation' of the female workforce that had replaced male workers in industry and agriculture. to match labour supply. However, a major consideration was the relative location of industry and populations. The effects of wartime bombing on areas of both poor urban housing and old factories provided an opportunity to rebuild both in a more planned fashion than hitherto. New towns were built, and re-development within the cities was subject to planning controls. The pre-war designation of 'Green Belt' for London, whereby unplanned 'urban sprawl' was checked, was reinforced by the 1945 Abercrombie Plan for Greater London, and by the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. Employment development per se was not a major issue under such a regime, where job opportunities were relatively plentiful and arose within post-war economic growth subject to land use planning. The main problem of unemployment was seen as that of poverty, which was addressed through the National Assistance scheme developed within the welfare state provisions established by the Labour Government, and continued by the Conservative Government elected in 1951 and the next two General Elections.

The 'Inner-Cities Problem' and Community Development

Such an emphasis on physical redevelopment began to change in the 1960s when 'the inner city problem' started to emerge. There are many features of this, including the continued decline in the older inner city housing stock, a slowdown in the post-war economic boom, and the changing demographic character of the inner city as a consequence of immigration from the New Commonwealth countries (the former British colonies, mainly in the West Indies and the Indian sub-continent). Whilst new developments took place in respect of housing, largely in the form of slum clearance and replacement high-rise buildings, the perceived loss of a 'sense of community' was the basis for policies directed towards community development.

Community work, and community development, became significant in the response to the 'rediscovery' of poverty and deprivation in urban areas. Whilst social work (dealing mainly with individuals and families) had become a professionalised area within the institutions of the post-war welfare state, community work had not achieved such a degree of professionalisation. A major initiative by a charitable organisation, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation sponsored initiatives during the 1960s, and the Community Development Foundation was established in 1968. The Government set up a number of Community Development Projects in areas of severe urban deprivation. These linked practitioners and academics in action research projects, concerned with enabling people in their local communities to develop ways of improving their situation. The Community Development Projects came to an end in the late 1970s, but various Government initiatives since then have been oriented towards community development.

Reskilling the Individual

The 1970s saw a further economic downturn, arising from attempts to reduce the balance of payments deficit and to rein in rapid rises in inflation, exacerbated by the oil crisis following the 1973 war in the Middle East. New policies were developed, primarily in terms of macro-economic factors; public expenditure was cut, taxation increased. Unemployment rose under such circumstances, particular in terms of school leavers who were unable to obtain jobs and adult workers whose jobs were lost through industrial restructuring. Strategies were introduced to deal with such unemployment, particularly in terms of retraining for newer industries. The general election victory of the Conservative Party in 1979 is largely attributed to the rapid growth in unemployment; a key slogan was that 'Labour isn't working'. The deep recession in the early 1980s resulted in further rapid rises in unemployment, and an increasing range of initiatives to deal with it. Such initiatives by Central Government were primarily based on the notion that the macro-economic policies of the Government were the only way in which sustainable long-term employment could be developed, and so should not be abandoned to ameliorate short-term difficulties. However, individuals could be helped to make the best of the new opportunities that were arising, through training and work-experience schemes. The problem of unemployment at the local level was thus to be dealt with through programmes of training to meet the needs of the local labour market. Employers were formally given a major say in determining what training should be provided, through the establishment in 1988 of Training and Enterprise Councils whose governing bodies had to have a majority of senior executives from relevant local private sector commercial enterprises.

This employer-led training approach is supported by the major reform of occupational qualifications that was set in motion in 1986 : the establishment of National Vocational Qualifications. In addition, progressive changes to social security provision now make it difficult for an unemployed person to retain entitlement for state support for any significant period of time without undertaking some form of training and/or work experience scheme. These measures have continued under the new Labour Government.

The 'Local Economy' and Alternative Strategies

The election to Government in 1979 of the Conservative Party led by Margaret Thatcher effected a breach in the relative consensus of post-war national governments. However, at the local level this was also seen in the shift further to the left by the Labour Party, which experienced considerable electoral success in the major cities and particularly London. The Greater London Council (GLC) is a prime example of the experiment with 'Populist, Municipal Socialism'. New economic strategies were formulated and put into operation, with a primary emphasis upon employment creation and development. The free-market approach of the Conservative Government was accompanied by an emphasis upon planning and public sector intervention by the Labour-controlled metropolitan and other local authorities, especially the Greater London Council and West Midlands County Council. In the event, much of this alternative approach was brought to a close by the abolition of the metropolitan county councils and changes to local government funding. However, this was not before the growth of a set of theoretically-informed ideas and practices concerned with the 'local economy', distinct from those concerned with the national economy (macro-economy).

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