Archive for August, 2019

Brexit and the Local Industrial Strategy

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Despite the holiday period, and I hope that you are all getting an opportunity to have a break with friends and family, there appears to be two subjects which are filling our attention: Brexit and the Local Industrial Strategy (LIS).  They are related, in that the LIS will form the basis on which government investment is based after we leave the EU and the various European funding sources are replaced with national ones. 

We are told that the quality of the LIS will dictate half of the funds that we receive, with the other half coming as a more traditional calculation of size, population and need; it’s therefore worth expending some effort in getting it right.

The Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), under the energetic leadership for this activity of the Deputy Chair Alun Rogers, has really got this going.  They have engaged the services of Metrodynamics, a think-tank which has done some excellent work in other places; our lead is Patrick White, whom we know well from his previous service as a director in central government.   The aim is to look at the economy of Staffordshire in the future and prepare the ground for the businesses that will provide jobs and prosperity for us and our children, rather than perhaps in the past supporting the status quo.  As such, the four areas that have been identified are Advanced Manufacturing and Materials, Business and Professional Services, particularly around digital, Energy and Logistics.  There are of course other areas of opportunity, such as agriculture, but this seems like a good start. 

I was particularly happy to see logistics in the mix, as there has been a certain “sniffiness” about the quality of the jobs locally and indeed nationally.  Logistics is a major employer because of our location in the country, and we should be encouraging the higher end of the industry with better and better-paid jobs, focussing on automation.  Whether it’s Click and Collect, or buying fresh fruit and vegetables in supermarkets, excellent logistics facilitate the way that we live, and Staffordshire is at the heart of the industry. 

Logistics also plays a vital role in getting Brexit right.  We are working with central government and neighbouring local authorities to plan for the smoothest transition possible as we leave the EU.  There is a huge amount of work being done and many of the outstanding issues have been quietly solved.  Although one can never be complacent, the difference between deal or no-deal does not feel as much of a cliff-edge as it perhaps did some 6 months ago.  The key will be to do as much preparation as possible, and leave a bit of capacity in the system to plan for the unexpected.  I’ve always found that if one has solid plans and processes in place, those who understand the subjects can retain the intellectual headroom to deal with unintended consequences.