Brexit and the Local Industrial Strategy

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.   

One Response to “Brexit and the Local Industrial Strategy”

  1. Dominic says:

    I agree that logistics plays a vital role, though would observe there is some significant variation in how valuable an employer some distribution facilities are for our local economy. Whilst a lot clearly do employ locally, not all do – there are some significant ones where the business model is to bring daily bus loads (literally) of agency workers in quite some distance from the West Midlands conurbation. There is also similar variation in how haulage is arranged to/from distribution centres – some are running their own fleets, responsibly, and engaging directly, others sub-contract in from further afield with little local benefit for secure employment. Encouraging the higher end of the industry will hopefully bring with it more commitment to providing secure local employment.