Ian Mean MBE, our Gloucestershire Director, recently attended a Local Levelling Up Champions’ reception at 10 Downing Street, hosted by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.
Ian, who was awarded an MBE for “services to the community in Gloucestershire" discussed the role businesses can play in levelling up and the challenges that they face.
In Gloucestershire, and the wider South West, these challenges include the fundamental hurdle of buying land in order to grow and take on new staff. Ian says “planning is a huge issue for businesses. How can a business invest and expand its operations when buying land is so hard and takes so long? An issue that needs to be resolved is that councils simply do not have enough planning officers. I have known cases where it has taken a year to get planning.”
Ian was nominated, along with Chairman of Stroud & District Chamber of Trade and Commerce Tony Davey to attend the Downing Street reception by Siobhan Baillie, MP for Stroud.
“I was delighted Tony and Ian could come to No10 with me to meet the secretary of state and be recognised for the work they do to promote business, investment and levelling up in our area,” said Siobhan.
“It was also important for the minister to hear from Tony and Ian on their views about how the right levelling up bid can transform areas like Stroud and Berkeley where I am working with the town council and the levelling up minister at the moment to see what funds are available.”
Ian said: "It was an honour to be invited to Downing Street. I was impressed by the passion of Michael Gove when I talked to him about Levelling Up. I believe it is vital for Gloucestershire. I told him that his plans to make planning easier for business were so important for economic growth."
Ian has a strong track record in boosting opportunities for Gloucestershire’s young people, including establishing the local Apprenticeship Awards. He also knows, first-hand, the role that businesses can play in levelling up. Ian left his local comprehensive school at 16 and, after writing 110 letters to local newspapers, became a trainee journalist at the South London Observer (more on that story here). He then worked his way up to be Chief News Editor of the Birmingham Mail, Northern News Editor of the Daily Mail and Marketing Manager of the Daily Mirror. Ian was Editor in Chief of Gloucestershire Media and latterly Editor of the Western Daily Press.
Ian has been campaigning for more consistent levelling up for the past two years. He says “levelling up means trying to provide equal opportunities for everyone, particularly young people. In Gloucestershire there are 41,000 children living in poverty and areas that are in desperate need of development. We need to help young people move out of the poverty trap. We need apprenticeships. They are essential for future social mobility.”
Ian has welcomed the news of the government’s £200 million funding boost “to support local areas to offer more high-quality training opportunities to meet local skills needs, including Higher Technical Qualifications”. He states “businesses want work-ready young people. They are looking for people who have core skills, who can then be trained within the company.”
He also believes that schools need a dedicated careers manager and children are taught, at an earlier age, about the different careers available to them, and the routes to take them.
Phil Smith, Managing Director at Business West, said "It is great to see Ian being recognised in this significant way for his continued dedication to levelling up."