Calls for business and civic leaders to collaborate post-Brexit

L-R IPPR North's Ed Cox; GT's Mike Thomas

Calls for business and civic leaders to collaborate post-Brexit

The challenge of looking after both ‘people and places’, which faces public sector bodies and civic leaders in the post-Brexit era, was the subject of discussion at St George’s Hall, in Liverpool, last week.

Senior figures in the North West spoke during a morning of talks, which formed part of the regional AGM for the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). They included:

  • Ed Cox, director of think-tank IPPR North;
  • Mike Thomas, director and local government strategy lead for business adviser Grant Thornton in the North;
  • Neil Smith, executive director of resources for Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust; and
  • Andy Burns, national vice president of CIPFA.

Thomas, who was also elected as North West president of CIPFA on the day, explained the increasing importance of public and private sectors working collaboratively in a post-Brexit era: “Business and civic leaders need to get used to working together in a world that is volatile, uncertain, continually changing and, in many ways, ambiguous.

“Theresa May has clearly set out what she wants to achieve for the country with her Industrial Strategy. But the strategy is light on both detail as to how this will be achieved, and the opportunities that it presents to areas that have secured devolution deals – like in the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester.

“In all parts of the North West there are real challenges in public service delivery, not least in the health and social care system. Addressing them will require lasting change to the way public services are delivered. The problems cannot simply be fixed with short-term additional council tax rises.

“As the UK’s leading public sector auditor, Grant Thornton believes that the country’s business community and local authorities must present a united voice to the government. To this end, we are hosting a series of roundtables across the North West in the coming months, to facilitate discussion and, ultimately, deliver a paper to Number 10, outlining our recommendations.”

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, welcomed Thomas’ appointment and went on to echo some of his thoughts: “It's great news for our region that Mike is taking up this role.

"Smart collaboration between the public and private sectors, especially for financing infrastructure, is vital as we leave the EU, and Mike brings real insight into the local government sector."

Cox went on to speak of the 'importance of a voice for the North’, questioning who will drive an Industrial Strategy for the North of England. He emphasised the importance of local decision-making and the need for some form of regional governance that can help address the ‘economic and democratic deficits that exist.'

Cox called for the North to find ways to 'take back control' if it is to achieve its potential and remain competitive in a global marketplace. He finished by outlining IPPR's recommendations on the short, medium and longer term changes required to drive forward a super-region, which form the basis of the recent report ‘Taking Back Control in the North’. They include the need to address the North’s infrastructure failings, and drive up skills and educational attainment.