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Partnership is key to success, conference heard

Posted on November 11th, 2017

2017 State of the Economy Conference
Working together for the good of the region was the key message that came out of a strategic conference staged in Derby yesterday.

Mark Deakin, East Midlands Regional Director at Turner and Townsend, summed it up as the second of “three Ps” – purpose, partnerships and politics – that needed to be addressed for regional success.

As a discussion panellist, he told the annual East Midlands Chamber* State of the Economy Conference, held at the Rolls-Royce Learning and Development Centre, Derby, that partnerships between the public and private sectors and investors were essential.

Fellow panellist Jochan Schnadt, Chief Commercial Officer at bmi regional, reinforced the message and added that with Brexit looming “and a complete lack of planning put forward” it was important “to do everything humanly possible to keep the status quo intact”.

He dismissed scaremongers’ claims that flights between the UK and the EU would be grounded at Brexit as “unrealistic”.

Also on the panel, the second of the afternoon, Camilla Wigmore, Managing Director at Chamber business award winner Abacus Lighting, said she wanted to see increased investment in the region.

Chamber Immediate Past-President Geoff Poyzer, Managing Director for the Highways Division at North Midland Construction, said his company was “extremely busy” at the moment but most of the work was with water and broadband.

He said that finding recruits with adequate skills for engineering and construction jobs was one of the biggest issues.

Paul Harris, Director of Economic Development at Rolls-Royce, said it was pleasing that the Government was interested in developing an industrial strategy and, continuing the partnership theme, said: “We want to see it go across the whole of Government.”

Before the panel discussion, delegates heard from Patrick Magee, Chief Commercial Officer at the three-year-old British Business Bank, who described the three categories of business it was tasked to drive – new, scale-up and stay-ahead – and how it had already invested £1.19bn in businesses in the East Midlands.

After the discussion, Lillian Greenwood, MP for Nottingham South and Chair of the Transport Select Committee, talked about the need for continued investment in the important issue of transport and questioned the logic behind adopting bi-mode trains instead of faster, lighter, greener electric trains for the Midlands Main Line.

“I have been asking the Department for Transport how it came to that decision and my Committee’s job is to ensure they justify it.”

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive at East Midlands Chamber had opened the conference by reminding delegates that Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s Budget next week was his penultimate before Brexit, which he described as “a sobering thought”.

Then the near-200 delegates heard Alastair Cunningham, the Bank of England’s Agent in the East Midlands talk about inflation and why the recent interest rate rise was a positive thing as it showed growth in the economy.

He said it was expected that export growth would continue.

Justin Urquhart-Stewart, of Seven Investment Management then said: “If you have confidence, anything can happen.”

He outlined the current state of the economy from an investment perspective and reminded delegates that in 2015 inward investment in the UK had been third highest of 14 countries.

And he was critical of Government for continuing to charge Stamp Duty on house sales, pointing out that more revenue would be raised from the VAT from new kitchens and bathrooms fitted in bought houses than from stamp duty.

He urged Government to develop a five-year-plus investment plan.

There was a short panel discussion, featuring Mark Fahy - Primary Markets, London Stock Exchange Group, Dr Nik Kotecha - Chief Executive at Morningside Pharmaceuticals, Garrry Mowbray - Director of Finance, Bombardieer Transportation, Howard Ebison – Commercial Director, East Midlands Airport and Professor Dana Brown – Principal, Leicester Castle Business School.

After that discussion, Nicky Morgan, MP for Loughborough and Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, told the conference: “The view from Westminster is one of confidence, the view of Westminster at the moment is pretty grim.”

She said she couldn’t give any glimpses about what might be included in the Budget but did add towards the end of her presentation that she expected “a big housing package”.

She said the East Midlands economy was recognised as one of the fastest-growing outside of London and the South East, with manufacturing in the region very strong, employing some 600,000 people in the sector in the region.

She concluded by saying that starting this week the Treasury Select Committee “will be hearing from business about Brexit”.

Hosted by Rolls-Royce, the main sponsor of the event was bmi regional with additional support from Turner and Townsend.