The government’s forthcoming industrial strategy white paper is predicted to be built around five themes – but scepticism remains about the extent to which it will be built around localist principles.
Speaking at the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers annual conference yesterday, Local Government Association chief executive Mark Lloyd said the “latest insight” he had picked up within Whitehall suggested the document would be built around:
- Business and how the economy can flourish post-Brexit;
- Skills, including the scope for more devolution in this area;
- Infrastructure, including housing;
- Ideas, science research & development, technology
The importance of ‘place’ in the government’s plans, and the extent to which local government would play a key role, dominated the conference discussion.
Mr Lloyd said he expected local places would be able to devise their own industrial strategies although Whitehall officials tended to expect that it would be local enterprise partnerships and combined authorities in the driving seat, rather than individual councils.
Speaking in the discussion, Salford City Council chief executive Jim Taylor said he would be concerned if “place is the add-on at number five”.
“If we are going to be successful, it’s all about place,” he said.
Neil McInroy, chief executive of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, compared the industrial strategy with Harold Wilson’s short-lived Department of Economic Affairs, which was partially set up to combat the might of the Treasury. He predicted the aim of the industrial strategy will “go the way of the others” by being “smothered by the Treasury”.
He urged the creation of an “activist state” committed to the “spatial rebalancing of the economy” to ensure social justice in the fourth industrial age, in which artificial intelligence resulted in traditional jobs disappearing.
“We need to ask who owns the robots and consider new ownership models,” he said. “Local government and combined authorities need to go deeper than the national government will do when it comes to building the link between social justice and economic development.”