A new future for Lancashire

As we begin to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, I welcome the 'in principle' agreement of the 15 authorities across Lancashire to move to a Mayoral Combined Authority.

The agreement could lead to a devolution deal with the government which would see Lancashire having greater control and influence over how money is spent in the county. Devolution is absolutely key to the future of Lancashire as without it we will struggle to develop as a County.

New powers and funds can help us spark a new economic reality and this, along with a Mayor, will ensure we have a loud voice for Lancashire. We have a long way to go but I am seeing a new future here and I am genuinely excited by it. We don’t want just any deal though, we must have a deal that is filled with vision, ambition, investment and a freshness of approach. We are at a pivotal moment in Lancashire and we must now deliver what we have committed to do. 

Whilst this is being progressed we do however have the here and now issues to face, which are stark. Corvid-19 has hit Lancashire hard and it is heart breaking to hear about the many lives that have been lost. The economic fall-out is still developing, on a daily basis we hear of businesses failing and people’s livelihoods being lost. I have not seen anything like it in my lifetime and we don’t know the final landing point for the Lancashire economy. All sectors are being hit hard with Tourism, Hospitality and Manufacturing worrying me greatly. 

The impact on young people is particularly concerning with the loss of jobs, but also Apprenticeships. If we are not careful we will have a lost generation of talent which we will need as we come out of this recession. We need to invest in our young people who are the future of Lancashire and there has never been a more important time to do this.

I have not seen anything like this in my lifetime and we don’t know the final landing point for the Lancashire economy.

I would therefore call upon businesses not to reduce Apprenticeships but to take on more and I would call upon the larger businesses to help find more opportunities for any Apprentices displaced as smaller companies fail.

The LEP Board pre-Covid created a new Economic Strategic Framework to provide a focus on driving economic growth, but the new reality is that for some sectors the focus is on survival before hitting recovery and then growth.

To get the best insights possible we are pulling together new Sector Groups made up of Business Leaders who we can work with to develop the interventions and asks of government needed to bounce back,'' says Steve. ''We have already launched Sector Groups for Tourism, Manufacturing and Low Carbon Energy, with Food and Agriculture about to start. The uncertainty around Hospitality and Tourism remains a huge concern - if we can’t safely reduce the 2metre social distancing rules more businesses will inevitably fail.

It is clear to me that we are now dealing with new norms. We will not go back to how it was. Things have changed. Flexible working is a new norm. We don’t need to be in the office all the time as working from home is now acceptable. Digital has become a new reality for us all with virtual meetings, virtual medical appointment, lectures and teaching all taking place online. Innovation is an everyday challenge for all businesses using automation and increased digitisation to keep going. We need to capture these changes and build upon them and above all else continue to exploit digital technologies and solve the digital poverty issues that have become magnified in the current crisis. I call on Government to increase investment in the digital skills, infrastructure and connectivity we need in Lancashire.

It is clear to me we need to invest and innovate our way out of this economic crisis and I would encourage businesses to continue to invest. To help I am calling on Government to provide a new multi £billion investment fund to help stimulate the economy. I am also asking that we revisit our procurement practices and invest in local and national supply chains, with a shift in focus towards the economic and social value we create, away from sourcing based solely on cost.

There has never been a more important time when we need to come together from across Lancashire with collaboration and inclusion at the heart of everything we do. Investing our way out of this crisis so we can come back better and stronger is what we need in Lancashire.

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