Following the Chancellor’s Budget last week it should come as no surprise that Government support for high-tech growth and the exploitation of digital technologies is at the heart of its industrial strategy white paper.
Beyond these so-called ‘grand challenges’, Government is right to identify the ‘5 foundations of productivity’ as ideas, people, infrastructure, the business environment and place.
Out of all of these, it is a renewed focus on place that resonates most strongly with our objective of making this region the best place to live, work and do business.
We strongly support the government recognising the need for a national industrial and therefore business and enterprise growth plan - and the strong acknowledgment that this needs to be a long term plan that therefore works across multiple election cycles.
Despite all this however, on the basis of the ‘key policies’ put forward by Government to signal this renewed focus on place, one cannot help but be a little disappointed.
While the pledge to develop ‘Local Industrial Strategies’ sounds promising it is unclear how they will work in practice and if they will turn out to be a help or hindrance to the work of the councils, LEP and the Combined Authority in this area.
Additionally, while the creation of a new Transforming Cities fund sounds great in principle, judging by the tone the Chancellor adopted in his Budget statement last week, I have misgivings as to whether Bristol, Bath & the West of England will actually receive the amount of funding it justifiably deserves and needs if it is to deliver anyway towards its growth potential.
Finally, a £42m budget to help pilot the Teacher Development Premium in schools seems highly ambitious given the skills gaps this region faces.
Early days, of course, but much more detail and much more input from the business community is desperately needed and something we will be helping make happen.