While there is an intense focus on the Brexit negotiations, important issues that are critical to the immediate health of local economies are being forgotten. Business rates reform, local growth zones and the evolution of the BIDs model have all been put to one side due to the political turmoil in Westminster.
Pathway to Resilience is our opportunity to ensure that the issues important to our members are not forgotten by Parliament in favour of Brexit, but are prioritised because of Brexit. We need to ensure that our town and city centres are resilient to the significant change in our economic structure that we are about to embark on. Making our local economies vibrant is as important now as it ever was.
ATCM is publishing the six key issues that we will consult on at our national conversation on Post-Brexit urban policy in less than two weeks. At Pathway to Resilience in Birmingham we will be inviting members to tell us what policy recommendations we should be making in each of these areas.
UK Productivity is sluggish. It is so poor that it is estimated that a worker here can achieve in five days what an employee from Germany or France can achieve in four. Across the UK and Ireland there is an urgent need to invest in infrastructure to support the urban economy. But what is it we should be investing in?
De we prioritise digital connectivity? Do we push for better physical connectivity? Are we looking for investment in pot holes or public realm? And should we be targeting local schemes, national schemes, enhancing the North or South, East or West?
Business rates, the national living wage, the apprenticeship levy, the late night levy. For too many high street businesses, the costs of operating are challenging. Fostering a thriving enterprise culture will be dependent on making the sums works for businesses. We need policy ideas on how to reduce business costs however simple or radical.
The tourism economy is worth £127.4bn to the UK and €4.6bn to Ireland. The departure of the UK from the EU has significant ramifications, both in terms of foreign visitors and staycations. For the UK, two thirds of foreign tourists are estimated to visit from the EU. Uncertainty over freedom of movement casts a cloud over current working arrangements. However, new opportunities may also arise.
The vast majority of EU nationals residing in the UK, come here to work. Not only are they disproportionally more economically active than the native population, but they are over-represented in retail and hospitality which raises concerns for town centre businesses. They are also over-represented in sectors such as manufacturing and construction which raises concerns for those industries that support a wider regional economy. Our departure from the EU might see a radical restructuring of our immigration system that could have a long lasting impact on the skills and labour available to our town centres and a knock-on impact on investment opportunities.
Complaints about safety and disorder in town and city centres are persistent. Concerns around limited police resource, street begging, homelessness, and fears around terrorism came top of the list during ATCM’s policy survey in the run up to this year’s general election. Post-Brexit these issues will only be magnified in importance as we work hard to ensure our town centres remain great investment opportunities for people and businesses. To achieve this, the feeling we get from members is that changes in government policies are necessary.
Strong, local partnerships make the core of our towns and cities work. And the UK and Ireland is home to some of the world’s best. However, dwindling public sector funding is taking its toll on everyone. Local authorities cannot invest in their town centres the way they would like. In turn, the promise of BIDs being ‘additionality’ is being comprised.
There is enormous potential for the growth and evolution of our industry. So, what are the future partnership structures that will make property owners a key element in town and city partnerships? How should city-region partnerships evolve with growing prominence of metro mayors? How should LEPs and other bodies responsible for regional economic development embrace town and city partnerships?
In addition to the evolution of management schemes, how do we foster the right investment models that will deliver real change?