There is a fourth industrial revolution underway based on high skills and technology. We encourage businesses and local leaders to envision a strategy that incorporates local communities and people as well as contributing to developing Place Based Leadership.
During the Chancellor’s budget speech, he mentioned that productivity was drifting downwards and lagging behind many other developed countries. Productivity has stalled because of low skill, low value and low wage jobs which haven’t fully recovered from the 2008 crash.
The government’s industrial strategy white paper sets out a diagnosis and points towards some solutions. The reality is of course that these solutions are not relevant to all places and its people. Businesses and local leaders will be key to delivering the right strategy for each place rather than relying on the government to come up with all the solutions.
How do we think this will work? In our view there are three key things that local leaders need to focus on.
Create a genuine vision or ‘purpose’ that reflects real local circumstances and needs
A true local industrial strategy means using evidence to take a careful and systemic view of the relationship between industry, economy, people and place, and weaving a unified and place-based narrative about success, identity and confidence. We believe this should include all the counties of England who will need to decide at what scale an industrial strategy works for them. These strategies should focus on:
- historical heritage
- future opportunities in a post-Brexit world
- investment in education and skills that fit that place
- Public sector and business investing in raising aspiration in their places, making young people want to stay and invest their skills
- developing tech led businesses that reflect local circumstances and don’t try and copy what happens elsewhere.
Collaborate or risk mediocrity
We challenge institutions across the country (including Local Enterprise Partnerships, Combined Authorities, other local authorities, health and public safety partners) on whether they are doing enough to overcome inertia and work together for the good of the communities and places they serve. People can collaborate effectively but it is easier if we abolish the existing two tier structure so that developed authorities take a strategic overview of what their place needs.
There are over 350 sovereign local authorities in England, however our governance structures are the most centralised in the Western world with all competing for a form of devolution that suits them best so it is not surprising that devolution has moved so slowly. There is also a key role for other public sector leaders and business to drive this agenda forward and collaborate effectively. We need local NHS leaders to be empowered to support local communities and commit to developing apprentices by investing in health education, and local businesses need to seize the opportunity of business rate retention to work with councils to focus on what is the best way to spend taxes raised.
Invest in the next generation of place-based leaders
We need to ensure that people who are developing into senior public sector roles have the skills, perspective and networks to work as part of an increasingly well-defined place-based ecosystem. We have long since moved passed the notion that the job of the council was to provide services to the local community. Councils need to be enablers and facilitators. We need all key players to contribute to developing Place Based Leadership and we are currently working with Collaborate CIC to develop this vision.
We believe that whilst Britain needs to compete globally for new markets, the key to the local industrial strategy working is all about collaboration across places to achieve the best outcomes for all.