Last week, the Chancellor George Osborne visited Derby, in part to outline the Government vision for a Midlands Engine for Growth. In these pages we have previously identified the need for the East Midlands to ‘punch its weight’ by working more collaboratively so we support the Government being proactive. However, we need to turn thoughts into action and work quickly on developing a coherence to our approach and specifically what are the real economic strengths of the area – our USPs.
To a degree, the Chancellor identified these areas – connectivity, universities, exporting, manufacturing and engineering and we should recognise what Government considers to be important as well as what we know to be important.
In developing a vision for the area, it is really important that it is authentic, working with the grain of the area. We have emphasised that being people-centred has to be at the core of any economic development plan with residents and businesses alike understanding what’s in it for them and how their businesses and families will benefit.
The Chancellor George Osborne speaking at Garrandale in Derby last week
Whilst we have some really important large multi-nationals, small business is at the heart of the East Midlands and supporting their resilience and growth is absolutely crucial.
Our draft suggestions include 5 key themes:
- Connectivity – maximising the location of the East Midlands at the centre of the UK including increasing exports and supporting HS2.
- Innovative – capturing the competitive advantage of having world-class universities in our area.
- People-Centred – ensuring all residents are empowered by and feel the benefit of economic growth through upskilling, higher productivity and local devolution.
- Low Carbon – Ensuring jobs growth is sustainable and delivered whilst minimising the impact on the planet
- Smart –the provision of superfast or ultrafast broadband and maximising the opportunities for the application of technology – the internet of things – to engage more communities in the right solutions to economic growth.
In any plan, there will be a need to set out measurable and challenging goals and secure the funding and loans to make sure they happen. Devolution will be at the core of the strategy, providing local powers with the powers to implement the right sort of growth, at the right scale, and at the right time.
David Ralph, Chief Executive, The D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership