With Brexit, Trump, and the General Election, devolution hasn’t perhaps had the attention it deserves in the West of England. We should take note however, as these new Metro Mayors have some significant powers that can impact on local businesses.
Devolution and the Metro Mayor
On May 2017 a new, directly elected West of England Metro Mayor will lead the new West of England Combined Authority and exercise a range of powers and functions devolved from central government. These powers cover transport, planning, adult education, disability and unemployment and a £900m fund to encourage local growth.
Manufacturing in the Region
West of England manufacturers have ambition. The majority want to see their businesses grow and have plans in place to make that happen. In the West of England area, manufacturing accounts for almost 7% of total employment and 10.5% of total West of England output.
There are however challenges in the local business environment holding back manufacturers from achieving their ambitions. By engaging with manufacturers, the new Metro Mayor can help create an environment that helps businesses meet their ambitions, further increasing their contribution to the local economy.
Boosting Labour Productivity, Skills and Employment
Accessing skilled a skilled workforce is a key issue for West of England Manufacturers. These businesses need a reliable pool of skilled individuals to ensure that they can match staffing to their business needs. Companies with seasonal demand for example, need to be able to attract skilled staff at their peak times, enabling high productivity to meet market demand.
The Mayor should focus on creating a skilled and adaptable workforce to meet the needs of manufacturing.
Manufacturers need a reliable transport infrastructure for goods and employees. Workers need to be able to get to work on time and the products they create need to be transported to the customer without delays caused by a congested transport system. Manufacturers should be consulted on both public transport timetables and planned changes to the road network to ensure they do not create a barrier to business.
The Mayor needs to work with manufacturers to create a transport system that works for everyone.
Housing and Planning to Support Growth
Access to affordable housing, especially in urban areas, is crucial in raising the volume of talent available to industry. Staff that live within a sensible commute of where they work can respond to short term demand better the business can benefit from a stable workforce, not being forced to move because of high cost of living.
The Mayor should work with Manufacturers to understand the areas where affordable housing is needed, to ensure valuable workers are not priced out of an area.
These Elections Matter
The West of England Mayoral elections represents a milestone for our area but also a departure. By the next election the Mayor and Combined Authority will have delivered tangible actions to help create a stronger more resilient West of England economy.
Success in West of England will also send a positive message to businesses and central government that decisions taken at the local level can add value, and West of England will be in the vanguard, setting it up perfectly to be granted more powers to improve the business environment for manufacturers.
EEF's mission is to champion manufacturers and manufacturing across the UK and we stand ready to work with the new West of England Mayor and Combined Authority to make our area a vibrant location for our members.