Stephen Gregson: Citizens’ Forum Member

We invited people who have attended our Citizens’ Panels to share their experiences of taking part. The article below is by Stephen, from North-West England.

I am married, in my mid 50s, live in North-West England, have two children going through university and for the past 25 years have principally advised business owners on buying and selling businesses. My work and ‘non-work’ experiences have underpinned my interest in economics and how it impacts people on a day-to-day basis.  

Whenever the economy was mentioned in news reports it was made to sound like some finely-balanced ‘machine’ which operated according to relatively fixed iron mathematical and scientific ‘laws’. This understanding of the economy struck me as odd given that it was made up of all the messy, inefficient and unpredictable interactions of, mostly, human beings. I don’t think economics is a branch of mathematics – it isn’t ‘value neutral’. 

When the Bank began its outreach programme and initiated the Citizens’ Panels I wanted to get involved both to learn more, and also, like I imagine most other fellow panel members did, to contribute to the Bank’s thought processes. My first event was in Liverpool in early 2020. Then Covid arrived and the events moved online. I think that probably helped the Bank reach a wider audience; it certainly made it much easier for me to take part in a wider range of events. My experience of the various outreach events has been great and better than I had expected it would be. 

Two (related) things really impress me about the live sessions: they involve the most senior figures at the Bank and, crucially, we are able to ask the really pointed questions, such as about the relationship between UK inflation and pay rises (which have, for the most part, lagged inflation). These weren’t filtered or censored -  but answered in plain English.
I do, however, think that the Bank could perhaps go further in engaging with a wider range of ‘economic actors’ when it comes to setting base rates. I wonder if there is sufficient real plurality of views and ‘economic experience’ reflected in the Monetary Policy Committee’s deliberations when it decides base rates. For instance, to what extent does it understand the experience of younger people joining the workforce and wondering how, if ever, they can afford to get on a housing ladder? Also, I wonder how far it engages with the trade unions and the economic research they are carrying out. I wonder if the views of private sector businesses are still given too great a weighting by the Bank and insufficient view is taken of the day to day lived experience of the economy by the rest of us.

This page was last updated 19 October 2023