A new expert committee is needed to pick up warning signs about areas of the country at risk from unemployment shocks as old industries decline and new ones take their place, business leaders have said today [Saturday].
Releasing the next in its Let’s Push Thing Forward series of ‘minifesto’ papers, today focusing on driving regional growth, the Institute of Directors called for the next government to create a new body to feed back to the Business and Education Departments on future threats to employment in specific local areas.
Building on existing efforts, including Local Enterprise Partnerships and Catapult Centres, this Committee would advise on skills and business-focussed initiatives to ensure that, as technology changes, local areas do not suffer as a result of a dominant industry downsizing or closing. This Committee would provide an ‘early warning system’ in an attempt to ensure the downsides of new technology and global trends do not create pockets of sudden high unemployment.
To boost regional growth, the IoD also called for the next Government to:
- Host ‘Regional Cabinet’ meetings with each of the new Metro Mayors in the latter half of 2017, to increase the momentum around the new roles
- Encourage better export performance through Department of International Trade-led competitions for trade show funds, in which Mayors and Local Authority leaders can bid against each other for regional trade and investment campaign funds
- Introduce stricter governance and transparency regulations for Local Enterprise Partnerships
- Continue and expand competitions between Local Authorities for funds to address infrastructure pinch-points
- Trial higher-rate reliefs within the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme to boost the availability of capital for start-up and scale-up businesses
Andy Silvester, Head of Campaigns and Deputy Director of Policy at the IoD, said:
“Britain’s uneven economic geography has plagued more than one recent government, but that it is hard is no excuse to give up. While investing in the fundamentals of the economy, from future-proofed skills to upgrading creaking infrastructure, is the most crucial element, innovative proposals to encourage a race to the top between local areas and political leaders can provide a healthy nudge, too.
“Nobody should ever apologise for the remarkable economic powerhouse that is London and the South East, but inspiring organic growth elsewhere in the country will go some way to ensuring our post-Brexit future is a prosperous one. There are success stories, from car making in the north east to cyber security in the south west, and the question now is how to build on that and combine it with the devolutionary efforts of the previous Government.
“Throughout this election period, the elephant in the room is the challenge presented by new technology and automation. None of the parties seem to have given much thought to how we should respond to ‘the rise of the robots’ but it may present the defining challenge of coming decades. A Committee to look at areas of particular vulnerability is one small step towards giving the issue the attention it deserves.”
Read the full paper, Driving Regional Growth, here