As the weeks of the Coronavirus crisis turn into months, my focus has been on getting our economy moving again, once it is safe to do. I was recently on a call with the Prime Minister who asked me to take the lead on our region’s economic recovery and renewal. This week I’m chairing the first meeting of our new regional taskforce, made up of a cross-section of our region’s economy, to drive that work.
I know that our residents are looking to politicians and businesses leaders to show a positive path out of these restrictions. This group brings together our employers, innovators, educators, trade unions and community champions to do exactly that.
Through our region’s strengths in innovation and collaboration, we entered this crisis with record high employment, a buoyant growing economy and a highly-skilled workforce across a diverse range of sectors. I know that many businesses are now facing unprecedented challenges. By acting now, we can lay the foundations not only to recover, but to renew.
This taskforce will consider how we can use this as an opportunity to accelerate our region’s economic renewal. That way we can provide continued prosperity for our residents and their families and maintain our advantage against global competitors for decades to come. We have an unprecedented opportunity here to accelerate our plans for the region.
I want us to create a bold and ambitious plan. We have our Local Industrial Strategy as a starting point. How can we move that further and faster? Now is the time to think big and answer big questions. What are the skills and training businesses are going to need in the next five months, and the next five years? How can we work with our colleges to make sure our most disadvantaged residents are getting real opportunities? What sort of digital and physical infrastructure do we need to harness the positive changes we’ve seen to travel and working habits in recent weeks?
The future success of our region depends on us working together, across government, councils and our businesses, to rapidly put together a plan and begin implementing it on the ground. If there are any barriers or limitations to what we can do regionally, I will lobby government to get those changes made.
It is vital that every one of us continues to follow the guidelines to make sure we don’t see of a second surge in Coronavirus cases. There is a long way to go before the devastating health, social and economic impacts of this terrible virus are overcome. But by starting to work together now and thinking about the next decade of recovery and renewal, we are laying the foundations to come back stronger, more sustainable and more inclusive than before.