The Growth Event

Is 2.5% Growth Compatible with Modern Values?


Measuring Success for Business, Society, and the Environment


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A hybrid (in person/zoom) Conference was held on Wednesday 30th November 2022.



Royal Statistical Society,
12 Errol Street,
London EC1Y 8LX


The Conference

COVID-19 and Brexit have already changed the way we live and work, with more change expected as we react to their lingering effects and seek a zero carbon, sustainable future.

With contributions from Industry, academia and the Office for National Statistics – including keynotes from Ian Cass of the Forum for Private Business and Geoff Tily from the Trades Union Council – this one day conference provided a wide-ranging review of progress on measuring these effects and their implications for policy and for business.

The agenda below covered such issues as:

  • AI and the Digital Revolution
  • Sustainability and the influence of Global Warming
  • Measuring wellbeing and welfare

With the final session providing a duologue of Sir John Curtice and Sir Vince Cable to discuss the role of economics in the political debate – or is it the role of politics in the economic debate?


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Morning – chaired by Tony Dent, Better Statistics CIC




9.00 am

Doors Open

Coffee and Networking

9.40 am


Conference Chair

9.45 to 10.25 am

Keynotes: Setting the scene

”The Challenges facing Micro businesses” – see slides

”Growth and real wages” – see slides


Ian Cass (MD, Forum of Private Business)

Geoff Tily (Senior Economist, Trades Union Council)

10.25 to 11.00 am

Session 1

“Business Statistics and Labour Market Transformation plans” – see slides


David Freeman (ONS, Labour Force Survey)

Craig Taylor (ONS, Annual Business and Annual Purchasers’ Surveys) – see slides

11.00 to 11.20 am

Coffee Break

11.20 to 12.30 pm

Session 2

On productivity “Where are the workers?” – see slides

“What can we expect from digital developments?” – see slides


“Is public opinion a barrier to AI?” – see slides

“Solving the UK Growth and Productivity Problem: One Firm at a Time” – see slides


Professor Jonathan Portes (Professor of Economics & Public Policy, King’s College)

Josh Martin (Economic Advisor, Bank of England) – see slides

Nicola Archer (Director, Savanta – presenting CDEI public opinion tracker)

David Stroll (Chief Technical Officer, Opagio Ltd)

Mathew Nagel (Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Neatsmith Ltd)


Afternoon – Chaired by Phyllis Macfarlane, Better Statistics CIC

12.30 to  1.40 pm





1.40 to  2.00 pm

Afternoon Keynote:

Income Distribution and Gross Domestic Product” – see slides


Professor Martin Weale (Professor of Economics at King’s Business School).

2.00 to 3.10 pm

Session 3 (Open Forum)


What is the future for GDP?  Should it be replaced or extended”

Chair: Professor Paul Allin


Ehsan Masood (Author of ‘GDP: The World’s Most Powerful Formula and Why it Must Change’).

Richard Heys (Deputy Chief Economist, ONS).
Jennifer Wallace (Director, Carnegie UK Trust).

3.10 to 3.30 pm

Tea break

3.30 to 4.10 pm

Session 4

Where to for the National Accounts?

“From people to plants – what should we value” – see slides

“How should we value the unproductive?” – see slides



Sanjiv Mahajan (Head of Methods and Research Engagement, ONS)

Vicky Pryce (Chief Economics’ Advisor, CEBR).

4.10 to 5.00 pm

Session 5

What is the role of Politics in Economics?

“The public’s hopes and expectations” – see slides

“The Politics of Government and economic statistics”



Sir John Curtice (Professor of Politics, University of Strathclyde)

Sir Vince Cable (Author and retired MP)

5.00 pm

Conference Closed


Our Speakers included:


Tony-Dent-headshot Tony Dent is chairman of CMR Group and past Chairman of both Sample Answers Ltd and the Alliance of International Market Research Institutes. The latter has now been submerged within the Insights Association. He is a statistician with over 40 years of International Market Research experience and has acted as a consultant to a number of companies, including the Civil Aviation Authority, DHL, IBM, Hewlett Packard, Radio Free Europe, and the Xerox Corporation. Tony holds a BSc and MSc in Mathematics and Statistics from Reading and Southampton.



Nicola Archer: Nicola works closely with clients to advise on internal decision-making and strategy on communications, reputation, and public policy. She has substantial experience in conducting public perceptions research to shape public policy, working with central government within and beyond UK borders, political parties, think tanks, and leading Not-for-profit organisations.



Sanjiv Mahajan: Sanjiv has held various posts across the UK economic accounts in the ONS and is presently Head of Methods and Research Engagement including the key operational link between the ONS and the UK Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence. Sanjiv holds various posts, examples include: Member of the United Nations Advisory Expert Group (AEG) on National Accounts and the President of the International Input-Output Association. Sanjiv was the Chief Editor of the UN Handbook on Supply and Use Tables, Input-Output Tables with Extensions and Applications. Most recently, Sanjiv is one of the five Supporting Editors for the forthcoming 2025 UN System of National Accounts.


geoff tilyGeoff Tily: Geoff Tily has been senior economist at the TUC since 2014. Before that he was 25 years in the government statistical and economic services, mainly at the Office for National Statistics but also at HM Treasury. His parallel academic activities include a book (2006) Keynes’s General Theory, the Rate of Interest and ‘Keynesian Economics’: Keynes Betrayed and ongoing contributions to the macro policy debate 



Mathew Nagel: Mathew is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Neatsmith Ltd a high-end bespoke wardrobe company based in Watford. His brother is the other co-founder and is responsible for Marketing and Sales. Over the last five years they have achieved near 20% growth year-on-year and we plan to increase that with investment in new showrooms and product lines. His focus is to grow their operating efficiency, as measured by labour productivity, for their 80 staff at 10% per year. To achieve this labour productivity growth, they are implementing the Opagio Growth Programme. This productivity growth, when combined with their revenue growth, should deliver 30% EBITDA growth per year.


Martin-Weale Martin Weale: Martin Weale has been Professor of Economics at King’s College, London since 2016 and is also and chair of NSCASE, the National Statistician’s Committee for Advice on Standards for Economic Statistics. His interest in economic statistics sprang from working as an ODI Fellow at the National Statistics Office in Malawi immediately after he graduated in 1977. After two years there he became a researcher and then lecturer in Economics at Cambridge University. He was appointed Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in 1995 and joined the Monetary Policy Committee as an external member in 2010. He was appointed CBE in 1999 following work on earnings statistics.



David Stroll: David is an information systems industry veteran with rich managerial experience in sales, marketing and product management gained from ICL in the UK and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in the USA. For the last 20 years he has worked as an independent researcher and consultant focusing on firm level measurement of productivity, innovation and growth. During this period, he has also completed an MSc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship and is now writing a PhD dissertation on this topic. He now serves as the CTO (Chief Technology Officer) at Opagio Ltd, a UK start-up, where he is responsible for the architecture, design and implementation of the Opagio Growth Programme.


Josh Martin: Josh is an economic advisor at the Bank of England, on secondment from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), where he was most recently Head of Productivity statistics. He worked at ONS between 2016 and 2022 in a variety of areas relating to productivity, including measuring intangible assets and infrastructure, measuring the productivity of public services, and microdata analysis.


Ehsan Masood: Ehsan is a science-policy journalist. He is the journal Nature’s Editor for Editorials and also has responsibility for news coverage of Africa and the Middle East. Ehsan is the author of a number of books and has made documentary programmes at the intersection of science, finance, history and policy for BBC Radio 4.


Paul-AllinPaul Allin: Paul is a visiting professor in the department of mathematics at Imperial College London. His research centres on the use of measures of national wellbeing and progress. He is also the Royal Statistical Society’s honorary officer for National Statistics. Paul spent forty years as a professional statistician, researcher and policy analyst in government departments and agencies, latterly as director of the ONS measuring national wellbeing programme.


David Freeman: David is head of the Labour Market and Households team at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and his team is responsible for the production of the monthly labour market data for the UK. He has worked for the Civil Service since 1992, joining ONS in 1998. David has worked on a range of economic statistics, including producer prices and product statistics, and has been working in labour market statistics over ten years.



Ian Cass: Ian originally joined the Forum of Private Business in 2013 and took the reins as Managing Director three years later in Summer 2015. Ian worked for Diageo for 14 years before forming the Venture team, he also runs Jack in the box Training, owned a couple of pubs, Founded Hunters gin and has been a business angel and investor for a variety of small businesses.


Jonathan Portes: Jonathan is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at King’s College London, and a Senior Fellow of UK in a Changing Europe. His current research concentrates on issues related to immigration and labour mobility, including the economic implications of Brexit.  Professor Portes spent most of his career as a civil servant, firstly at HM treasury and later serving as Chief Economist at the Department for Work and Pensions and subsequently at the Cabinet Office. From 2011 to 2015, he was Director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.  His most recent book is “Immigration: what do we know”, published by Sage.


Sir-John-Curtice-headshotSir John Curtice: John is Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde and Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Social Research; he is also chief commentator on What UK Thinks.



Vince-Cable-headshotSir Vince Cable:  Vince was the Business, Innovation and Skills Secretary in the coalition government, he has now retired from politics but retains an active interest in business and economic affairs.



Richard-Heys-headshotRichard Heys: Richard is Deputy Director & Deputy Chief Economist at the ONS. Amongst many other responsibilities Richard is currently responsible for productivity statistics at the ONS.




Jennifer Wallace: Jennifer is a public policy analyst and writer. She has held a range of positions in the public and voluntary sector and is currently Director at Carnegie UK, where she applies a wellbeing approach to government policy and promotes wellbeing as a narrative for social change. She has written extensively on this topic and has a specific interest and expertise in the role of wellbeing approaches in small jurisdictions. She currently leads the team that produces Gross Domestic Wellbeing: An Alternative Measure for Social Progress and programs on wellbeing governance in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North of Tyne region of England. She is also chair of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing Advisory Panel and was a member of the REF 2021 Main Panel for the Social Sciences.

craig-taylor-from-ons-headshotCraig Taylor: Craig recently became the lead for Business Statistics Transformation at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), leading a team focused on transforming business statistics which are used as key source data for a number of key economic outputs, such as GDP. Craig joined the ONS in 2002, and has worked across a range of economic statistics, including working with and leading teams producing quarterly GDP, Balance of Payments and Trade. Craig also has experience of leading key transformation objectives, such as improved Trade statistics, adapting a new approach to producing core National accounts and workstreams that enabled the move to double deflation.

Vicky-Pryce-headshotMs. Vicky Pryce
:  Vicky is Chief Economic Adviser and a board member at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). Vicky has held senior positions in business and the Civil service including as partner and chief economist at KPMG   and joint head of the UK government economic service.



Program Committee:

  • Professor Paul Allin – Visiting Professor (Mathematics), Imperial College
  • Alpesh Palej – Lead Economist, CBI
  • Sanjiv Mahajan – Head of Methods and Research Engagement National Accounts, ONS
  • Vicky Pryce – Chief Economics’ Advisor, CEBR
  • Phyllis Macfarlane – Director Better Statistics
  • Iain Mackay – Director Better Statistics
  • Tony Dent – Director Better Statistics (Chairman).


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Sponsorship Opportunities:

Better Statistics are seeking sponsors for this important event, those interested should please contact Tony Dent on 078 8508 821 to discuss the opportunities.

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The purpose of Better Statistics CIC is to campaign for more reliable statistics, whether created by private companies or by public bodies.

Please contact [email protected] for further information or call 078 8508 8521.