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An equal economy for all?

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When I moved to Norfolk in 2019, on being appointed Bishop of Norwich, I came across many people who had initially studied here – at the UEA or NUA – and then stayed or returned to work here later. This county has a certain “pull” on people. But there’s also an acknowledged recruitment problem in attracting people to work in Norfolk and Waveney from other parts of the UK.

According to Norfolk County Council’s analytics team, Norfolk is arguably the most self-contained labour market in the region, in part due to its peripheral and coastal location, but also due to the distance from other regional cities and the limited connectivity of the transport network. The county covers a vast area of around 551,000 hectares and contains several diverse economies, located within rural, urban and coastal communities.

The biggest employer is the health sector, followed by retail, manufacturing and education. Tourism is also a vital support for employment across Norfolk and Waveney, and agriculture, forestry and fishing employment is higher here than the national average.

Industry sectors where Norfolk notably employs at a lower level than regionally and nationally include the business administration & support service sector; the professional, scientific & technical sector; and the information & communication sector.

There are also acknowledge issues around children’s educational attainment and the further impacts on people’s skills and employment opportunities. Perhaps these are areas where we could be combining our connections within local communities to encourage ways and means to train our younger potential workforce to fill the skills gap.

These issues and more were discussed around tables at a recent gathering I hosted. A diverse group of people from a variety of businesses, such as Adnams and Jarrolds, the public sector and charitable organisations, gathered so that I could share with them about the Church of England’s work within local communities.

This shared space for discovery and dialogue, enabled all to consider what contributes towards enabling a more vibrant and sustainable economy for our communities.  I see this as being vital to creating places where people want to live and can thrive.

Three speakers gave insights into the Church’s impact in this area. One explored the place of a city centre church where the spiritual and the economic are tightly bound together. The excellent work of Scrapbox – Norfolk in waste minimisation from businesses and commerce was celebrated.  Finally, an overview of the economic contribution of the Diocese of Norwich across Norfolk and Waveney communities through our schools and churches. You can read their stories below.

For me, the rich conversation enabled the following themes to come through:

  • Our need across Norfolk and Waveney to collaborate rather than compete and/or duplicate, to build stronger local links between the private, public and voluntary sectors.
  • Having a vision for encouraging businesses and individuals to work and grow in this locality.
  • Building more trust between charitable funders and beneficiaries of funding, including covering core costs, not always looking for a “new” project.
  • Seeking to build the skills and training of our greatest asset: our young people.

Each of these areas will contribute to our economy and enable people across Norfolk and Waveney see a flourishing future. During the conversation I was reminded about how the Bible speaks of trading fairly (use honest measures), the importance of loving our neighbour (which includes seeking justice for those who are exploited), and honest practices (don’t covet). There is also that famous saying of Jesus about how difficult it is for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God and it being easier for camel to go through the eye of the needly. This demands of us to think through how we use wealth for the benefit of all, rather than storing it up in barns. How might a prosperous economy benefit the many rather than the few, and not widen the inequality gap still further?

Yet again, it inspired me to hear the conversations, shared stories, and enthusiasm around the room as people from businesses, voluntary sector charities and local authorities made connections. I hope this will continue to enable us to work together to encourage our local economy to thrive for the benefit of all.


A church in the heart of a commercial area

The Revd Canon Edward Carter, Vicar of St Peter Mancroft

At St Peter Mancroft, we are both an economic partner and an economic player in terms of the tourist industry and footfall through our doors. We partner with those around us:  The Forum, Norwich Theatre Royal, and Norwich Market to name but a few.

For me the spiritual and the economic are very tightly bound together. Our wellbeing and our vocation. Two words illustrate this.

The first is economics which comes from the Greek word for “household”. It means together, sharing, using our gifts – more than merely transactional relationships or encounters.

Fellowship is the second word – we hear it in the familiar “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, evermore.” It’s an old word connected to a commercial partnership or enterprise. It’s about using the skills of attentiveness and creativity.

My hope is that what we do at St Peter Mancroft stays true to these Christian themes and contributes well to the flourishing of the city.


Scrapbox Norfolk

Tula Chenery, Manager

Run largely by volunteers, many drawn from the Aylsham group of churches, Scrapbox reclaims clean, non-toxic waste from regional businesses to benefit our local communities and to keep as much as possible out of landfill. We sell this to individuals, schools, playgroups, churches, community organisations and groups providing art and crafting activities.

As Christians, we believe that it’s our responsibility to care for God’s creation and this is a great way of doing that. We have Duke of Edinburgh’s Award volunteers and work experience students from the local high school and we work in partnership with local businesses.

Scrapbox’s slogan is Rethink, Recreate, Renew:

RETHINK what we buy with a view to its longevity and sustainability;

RECREATE – think creatively and reuse as much as possible before throwing things away, by repurposing or upcycling into something else;

RENEW – give something which is no longer wanted or fit for original purpose a new lease of life.

We believe we all deserve a second chance in life!


The Diocese of Norwich

Mark Jeffries, Chair of the Norwich Diocesan Board of Finance

With over 640 churches in active use in 554 parishes, the churches of the Diocese of Norwich are embedded in local communities across Norfolk and Waveney, as they have been for centuries. Their role may have significantly adapted over the years, but their value is still immense, and each are pointers to God’s presence.

Alongside this are our 109 schools with 17,000 pupils. We are a significant employer and provider of services, as well as a purchaser of local services. We need trades people to help us maintain our church and school buildings, as well as our clergy housing. We need clergy, youth leaders, teachers and support staff.

We hold “glebe land” leased to local farmers and provide vital green spaces in our churchyards – many actively seeking to promote biodiverse habitats – spaces for the living, not just the dead.

Our churches host foodbanks, youth groups, afterschool clubs, breakfast and lunch clubs, dementia cafes and many more wellbeing activities, often working with in partnership with other local organisations and engaging thousands of volunteers. Often known as the “halo effect” this means that for every £10 invested in our work, we benefit others to the tune of £37.