22 March 2016

  |  CBI Press Team

News

Regional growth a big opportunity for firms, jobs and investment

Business leaders “need to step up” to help devolution drive economic prosperity across the UK, CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn will say in a speech to the Local Enterprise Partnership Conference in London today (Tuesday).

Regional growth a big opportunity for firms, jobs and investment

She will cite Bilbao, Lyon and Denver as cities that have become magnets for global talent and investment because local leaders and firms put political differences aside to work hand-in-hand on a “roadmap for growth”.

By kick-starting a new era of local co-operation, Government ministers, local leaders – including those in LEPs – and firms of all sizes can make devolution a success, Ms Fairbairn will say.

She will also highlight CBI efforts to produce “principles of good devolution” for all partners – national, regional, local or business.

On the role of central government, Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, will say:

“When it comes to devolving powers – political expediency shouldn’t trump economic prosperity. ‘Devolve first, ask questions later’ isn’t a recipe for regional growth.

“Many questions remain unanswered. Which powers can be devolved and for which geographical areas? How will we measure success and performance? And how can we make sure areas covered by different ‘deals’ continue to work together?”

On the importance of strong local and civic leadership, Carolyn will say:

“In Bilbao – for example – a regenerated downtown area attracted investment, a new metro improved transport links and a river ‘clean up’ scheme made the city a more attractive place to live.

“These weren’t stand-alone schemes, but each part of a ‘roadmap for growth’ drawn up by politicians and businesses working together.

“To truly rekindle the pioneer spirit of the Victorian civic leaders – business will also need to step up. We’re asking a lot of others, so we need to ask a lot of ourselves too.

“Business must rise to its civic responsibilities – helping to design and deliver growth plans in partnership with local leaders.

“Last month we helped set up Business North – a group of Northern firms who will champion the ‘business voice’ as the Northern Powerhouse rises brick-by-brick.

“And this year, we’ll be promoting civic leadership to business leaders. Using our expertise to help CBI members engage directly with local leaders and visa versa. This will be part of a wider effort to help firms’ access local leaders and shape the devolution agenda.”

On the CBI’s six “core principles” for good devolution, Carolyn will say:

“Holding devolution plans – new or existing – up against these criteria matters. It matters because ultimately, devolution’s success won’t be judged on promises made or powers devolved – but on jobs created, investment attracted and areas regenerated.

“For me – that’s what good devolution is all about.”