I recently participated in a Round Table discussion, hosted by the Institute of Civil Engineers at East Midlands Airport. The Institute invited ‘the great and the good’ from the private sector to consider how the East Midlands might work more cohesively on key priorities identified across the East Midlands LEPs Strategic Economic Plans submitted by D2N2 at the end of March 2014.
Hunting as a pack is a real challenge for the East Midlands. But advocacy for Midlands mainline improvements proves that it can be done.
In funding terms, the East Midlands has traditionally lost out to other areas of the country. However, it is no good simply copying Oliver Twist and asking for more. The East Midlands needs to identify a specific number of strategic investment opportunities, of which the East Midlands Airport is clearly one and demonstrate to government that these can give significant return on investment, are highly deliverable and generally represent a united view of the key priorities of the area.
Only by being clear on what the government gets for its money and by pooling private and public sector resources will we be able to demonstrate that we have the will – I’m clear we have the opportunity – to genuinely work in partnership across the East Midlands as a whole.
You simply do not get money for nothing or even for worthy projects. One of the key challenges for local governments and LEPs alike is to move away from the defunct model of “Begging Bowl Funding” and towards a much more strategic approach pooling resources and energy behind the crucial major successes. Strategic Economic plans have stated to prioritise across LEP areas but to counterweight London, Manchester and Leeds, the East Midlands needs to move quickly to enabling its most important initiatives.
Not only should the key priorities be identified, but innovative funding streams such as Tax Increment Financing and earnback need to be progressed.
Perhaps the East Midlands should consider Infrastructure Banks, similar to the Australian or American Model?