City business has say on government Industrial Strategy

The voices and views of the Sheffield city business region will be included in a national consultation on the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

Sheffield Chamber of Commerce has been collecting comments and contributions from members to feed into the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC)’s consultation on the Industrial Strategy.

The BCC consultation has been designed to ‘ensure that the government’s industrial strategy has a clear mission, gets the fundamentals right, and helps both places and industries realise their full potential’.*

Richard Wright, Executive Director of the Chamber, said: “Generally the employer community welcomed the government’s attempt to start to develop an Industrial Strategy for the next 20-25 years – although we all recognise it is very much a work in progress and there are some big events likely to happen in that period, not least of which, of course, is Brexit and now the General Election in June.

“Some of our members suggested a strategy that had been worked across government departments rather than solely through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) lens would be better. We have lots of experience of different departments that seem to work in isolation whilst this challenge needs a coordinated approach.

“There was little, if any mention, of secondary school education, just high level solutions for young people who have been churned out and ‘failed’, while several members questioned the current – or emerging – policy on International Students.

“Businesses also noted the lack of reference to planning policy or spatial strategy, and only a passing mention of housing strategy. All are interconnected and could be – and should be! – passed down to devolved administrations.

“Questions were also raised on the attempt to predict the sectors to support, too. Many members feel the role of government in this area should be to ensure the skills are available, that the infrastructure exists to connect people with jobs and business with markets, to ensure finance is available for businesses, and perhaps set some market ambitions which allow innovative companies to develop products and services.

“If we do want to focus on sectors then that should be decided regionally by devolved bodies. No region should rely on one sector but there was acknowledgement, too, that there are only a maximum number that can be prioritised.

“That apart, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce members generally welcomed the more geographical approach to economic growth through a devolution agenda, and the recognition that ‘one size fits all’ central programmes do not generally work across the country.

“They also welcomed the recent focus on identifying two strong educational routes, the traditional academic route and the ‘newer’ vocational routes as recommended by the Sainsbury report.

“The point that was perhaps made most strongly was that we really need some stability of policies for a decade or two. There is, in our opinion, far too much tinkering within government and by changing governments. It takes a number of years to deliver real benefits on policies and initiatives.”