Infrastructure skills and inward investment should be the focus areas for the Midlands Engine say local businesses

Infrastructure skills and inward investment should be the focus areas for the Midlands Engine say local businesses

Over the coming years, the region’s political and economic landscape will change dramatically. The government’s ambition for the Midlands to grow its economy by £34billion by 2030 will no doubt bring excitement and huge economic benefits to the region, but also some uncertainty.

The EY Midlands Engine Devolution Survey was conducted to find out the views of executives across the East and West Midlands. We wanted to hear from local businesses what devolution means to them and what should be the region’s focus areas in the long and short term. Almost 22% of respondents felt that more clarification is required on what the term ‘Midlands Engine’ actually means, suggesting that the breadth of the geographical area should be made clearer and how the diverse areas within the Midlands Engine will benefit from investment.

Many are also unsure of the extent of the powers to be devolved to the Midlands region and whether it will have greater responsibility over areas such as jobs, skills, infrastructure and housing. 84% of respondents said inward investment should be a top priority and more should be done to attract FDI. Almost 42% felt that much more is needed to help local businesses expand globally by promoting overseas trade.

The skills gap has been an issue for many years and more needs to be done to help bridge this. Respondents suggested that more emphasis should be placed on improving links between schools, colleges, universities and industry. Infrastructure is key, 88% said that this is an area that requires focus and, in particular, roads is where ‘urgent’ improvement is needed.

It’s clear to see from the results that we have some way to go to ensure that the structure and leadership of the public sector organisations such as the West Midlands Combined Authority, local authorities and LEPs are streamlined and well-coordinated. The region will have to prioritise focus areas and ensure that alignment of resources and integration between cities and towns is strong. Overall, many feel that in order for devolution to work, WMCA, local authorities and government need to continue work with businesses to better understand their needs and to truly set the Midlands region on a global stage.

With Brexit on the horizon, we are operating in a period of prolonged and uncertain change: to regulations, migration and trade, also to global social and geo-political factors. The Midlands Engine is not only open for business; it remains attractive, competitive and connected. It must seize on the chance of delivering unprecedented growth and prosperity.

The UK will continue to be an integral piece of the global jigsaw. New trade deals will provide access to key markets and create opportunities which will benefit UK businesses. EY is working around the world with businesses, government and industry bodies to help them answer their most challenging questions in order to shape a successful and prosperous future for the UK in the global economy.

Paul Brown
T: +44121 535 2917 M: 07827 881480 E: pbrown@uk.ey.com