Business leaders unite to debate the impact of devolution in the East Midlands

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Business leaders and key decision makers from across Nottingham have met to discuss devolution, the political hot topic of the day.

The event took place as part of a City Council initiative called Devolution Day which was geared towards raising awareness of the topic and what it will mean for the general public, as well as for businesses and the economy in the East Midlands.

Keynote speakers at the event included the leader of the City Council, Jon Collins, and Centre for Cities representative Naomi Clayton.
Hosted by global construction consultancy Turner & Townsend at its Nottingham office in Friar Lane, the event took the format of speeches followed by a Q&A session.

Leader of the City Council Jon Collins threw his weight behind the plans for devolution across both the East and West Midlands.

He said: “The political context is simple; we now have a democracy which is creaking at the seams and a national picture of around eight to nine million people who will not vote in the next general election.
“Something needs to change. What devolution offers is the opportunity to provide greater influence and powers to the regions and in turn to achieve outcomes more efficiently and effectively – which will certainly benefit local people and businesses.

“In the city we are currently working with the county and the districts to create a combined authority. Our proposal has been put to central government and we expect to be able to move forward with it by the end of this year.

“We have produced a series of ‘asks’ outlining the responsibilities we would like to achieve for a combined authority, which we think will bring outcomes such as more than 50,000 extra jobs, 77,000 extra houses, better further education provision, faster broadband and innovations around public transport and infrastructure.”

Centre for Cities representative Naomi Clayton gave a keynote speech about why and how devolution will benefit cities.

She said: “Thanks to a range of economic indicators we can see that cities are responsible for driving the economy. They account for 60% of jobs across the UK, and 72% of high-skilled jobs nationally. But there is certainly variation between different cities, with some struggling to adapt to changes in the global economy. Many large UK cities are currently punching well below their weight in terms of employment rates, business start-ups, workplace earnings and skills.

“The focus therefore needs to be on how we get big cities outside of London to punch above their weight. We see a simple answer to this question: give these cities greater financial control and flexibility.
“All the political parties are talking about a continued commitment to the devolution plan since the Scottish referendum in 2014 and the Localism Act in 2011. We think this is the right approach and that powers should be devolved down to a scale where policy can be most effectively designed and rolled out.

“Devolution represents an opportunity for local people and local organisations to drive the social and economic policy agenda and a move away from a central policy system which has historically damaged our economy.”

UK managing director at Turner & Townsend Jon White said the company was delighted to hostthe event and pleased with the turnout of business leaders from organisations such as the local Chamber of Commerce and the City Council.

He said: “As a business we are keen to support the devolution initiative. We have a very strong regional presence and we see the social value of more devolution to the regions as critical to growth and sustainability.
“Devolution is all about providing better solutions for local people and enhancing the coordination of business with the aims and beliefs of local stake holders and residents. In our experience, the delivery of major programmes and projects is all about collaboration – and that is a key part of our DNA as a business.

“Devolution is very exciting as a great engine for change because it will provide more power to the regions and more influence for local authorities to make choices which are appropriate for local people, in order to give them more control over things which are happening in their local environment.”

Regional director at Turner & Townsend Mark Deakin added: “We want to support the ongoing regeneration programme in Nottingham and we see devolution as a means of achieving that goal.

“We’re also keen to see the East Midlands and the West Midlands knitted together and we know we play a key role as a private practice in driving this goal, and devolution, forward.”

The event was attended by representatives from the local media, as well as local businesses including Skeleton Productions.

See a Notts TV report on the Devolution Day event here: https://nottstv.com/categories/news/?bctid=4133800147001

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