Lancashire businesses to be asked for their opinion about industrial future
Lancashire will have to assess the strengths and weaknesses in its industrial landscape over the next twelve months as it lays out a vision for the future of the its economy.
Alongside almost 40 other regions of England, the county has been tasked by government with creating a local industrial strategy.
The documents are designed to help make local areas more economically effective and bridge the UK’s so-called ‘productivity gap’. Productivity in Lancashire - a measure of what each worker produces by their labour - last year stood at 83 percent of the nationwide average.
A recent board meeting of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) heard that the strategies will be based on evidence about how the county's economy is currently performing and where it could be missing out on potential opportunities.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has said that the plans “must be developed from the bottom up and [be] led by those who best know the needs of local economies”.
Miranda Barker, an LEP director, said the involvement of the county’s businesses in the process would be crucial.
“We’re really keen to get [companies] across the whole of Lancashire involved in the discussions early...to see what ideas actually hold water.
“We need not to leave it until the last minute, otherwise it becomes an information giving [exercise] rather than an evidence gathering piece,” Ms. Barker said.
The LEP will consult with business throughout the summer as it forms a plan to put to government in the autumn.
Whitehall expects counties like Lancashire to focus on the “four grand challenges” for industry which it outlined late last year - incorporating artificial intelligence and data into businesses, supporting clean growth by developing local carbon technologies, exploring opportunities to take advantage of changes in mobility and helping meet the needs of an ageing society.
The documents are designed to describe a long-term vision for the economies in each area - and not be a wish list of planned or proposed schemes.
But board member Professor Mark Smith said he expects the government to use the strategies as a way of assessing which areas are given priority for any future funding to help them develop.
“If government says, 'this year we are going to fund X', they can look down the list of industrial strategies and [see which areas] have already committed themselves [to that priority],” he said.
External consultants have been drafted in to draw up Lancashire’s plan - prompting a plea from board director Mark Rawstron that the final document should be free of “consultancy speak”.