GBSLEP Blog – Steve Hollis (May 2013)
Steve Hollis, Deputy Chair of the GBSLEP reflects on the launch of the Strategy for Growth.
At a time when resource and funding for economic development are scarce and competition for investment is intense, the highest quality strategic planning is critical.
Rebalancing the UK economy is one of the Government’s biggest challenges and the need to address this was exposed even more in Lord Heseltine’s report ‘No Stone Unturned’.
Nobody can be in any doubt about the scale of the challenges we face here in Greater Birmingham.
We know that in virtually every indicator of economic performance –unemployment, GVA per-head and, particularly, skills – we compare unfavourably to the national average.
However, we also know that Greater Birmingham is on the cusp of a major breakthrough in our economic fortunes.
This will be fuelled by investment that is both planned and in progress that is on a scale that we have never seen before in our city region including investments in major infrastructure projects such as HS2 and New Street Station and landmark growth engines such as UK Central (the M42 Economic Gateway).
Furthermore, even in some bleak economic times, we can boast of some remarkable business success stories.
Jaguar Land Rover continues to go from strength to strength and the recent announcement that Deutsche Bank is opening a trading floor in Birmingham show, from two very diverse but key sectors, that there is a confidence in the city region.
Ultimately, it is by focusing on our strengths that we can begin to address our challenges.
Throughout the process of developing the Strategy For Growth we have been reminded repeatedly that there has been no shortage of strategies down the years.
So, what is different about the Strategy for Growth?
The most obvious difference is buy-in.
In the past, many of the strategies that have not delivered what they promised were imposed on partners – this is not the case here.
This strategy has been agreed and developed with the input of the private sector, local authorities, third-sector organisations, universities and colleges.
This has helped us to produce a strategy with those who are most closely involved in local growth and local employment.
The broad support that the Strategy for Growth has forms a cornerstone of Lord Heseltine’s recommendations in ‘No Stone Unturned’.
Not only is stakeholder consensus on economic growth plans fundamental to achieving the aims of the Strategy, but it is also a key principle for bidding for the Single Local Growth Fund.
The strength of our position is enhanced further when you consider we have already begun to demonstrate our LEP can deliver – most obviously through the development of the Birmingham City Centre Enterprise Zone and Paradise Circus.
As we move on, it will be vital that a robust governance structure is in place to deliver the required democratic accountability.
On behalf of the GBSLEP Board, I would like to thank everybody who played their part in developing the Strategy for Growth.
We believe the Strategy can – at last – provide us with the foundations to transform the economic fortunes of the city region forever.