Lancashire’s leaders have commissioned a new study of the local economy to ensure they’re in the best position to help the county recover quickly following the Covid pandemic, reshape public services, and take advantage of future investment opportunities.
The Independent Economic Review aims to create an up-to-date picture of the wider Lancashire economy, and gather information and intelligence to inform and provide evidence to support future decisions and funding bids.
It is being funded and commissioned by Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Blackpool Council and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
The review will help to support a number of emerging priorities, including the development of a separate industrial strategy, the shape of public sector reform and local government reorganisation, and conversations with government about support for the recovery and diversification of the local economy.
The review will be overseen by a panel of national experts from a breadth of backgrounds, including academia, local government, and think tanks. This expertise will be vital for bringing a truly independent view of the Lancashire economy.
To help build as accurate and detailed picture of the local economy as possible, the review will also seek evidence and intelligence from local businesses and communities.
County Councillor Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: “A combination of factors mean that we’re currently at a crucial moment in the development of our local economy, and it’s vital that we have the understanding and evidence to support forthcoming decisions which will have a major impact in the medium and long term through a call for evidence in early 2021.
“These include the need to support local businesses due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and conversations with government and local partners about the way public services are funded and organised. The Independent Economic Review will ensure we’re well positioned to influence decisions which will affect the future of the county and respond to any opportunities and challenges which arise.
“This study was already planned to take place to support our ongoing work on economic development, but the impact of the pandemic this year means this is now an urgent priority, and I’m glad that Lancashire’s leaders have come together to back it.”
Councillor Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “The biggest economic shock in generations will obviously have long running impacts on the national and local economy but there is a very strong tradition of manufacturing in Blackburn and Darwen and businesses have historically shown the capacity to come back from major challenges before.
“We are already seeing lots of diversification and we want this to continue with a particular emphasis on the development of the green economy in the face of the world’s climate change challenge.
“This study will help us to understand more about what needs to be done urgently in our borough and across the county, and will help us all to work together to help the economic future of everyone in Lancashire.”
Councillor Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Blackpool’s tourism and leisure economy has been hit hard during the pandemic and it’s vitally important that we are in the best possible position to understand the needs of our community and provide support for our local businesses through the recovery process.
“A true understanding of the diversity of the Lancashire economy in all its parts is critical to ensure effective collaborative action in the future, and to guarantee that we can present our case as strongly as possible to government, with a focus on evidence based policy-making to build on the progress we have made.”
Rowena Burns has been appointed chair of the independent panel. Rowena has an impressive track record in senior leadership, and is the current chair of Health Innovation Manchester, the organisation responsible for delivering innovation into Greater Manchester’s health and social care sector. Rowena has had a long and distinguished career across the public sector in the north west and has most recently been serving as the chair of Manchester Science Partnerships (MSP), a private/public partnership focussed on driving growth and opportunity in the most vibrant and innovative sectors of the economy.
Rowena Burns, chair of the independent panel, said: “It’s vital that we have a clear and accurate picture of the Lancashire economy to provide a clear pathway for the future, and I look forward to working with partners, businesses and local people to ensure the review offers a representative and credible analysis, and a firm foundation for recovery and future development.”
The Independent Economic Review will align with and inform forecasting and evidence work being undertaken to inform future priorities for the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and the completion of a Lancashire Industrial Strategy being led by the LEP. It will also provide evidence to assess Lancashire’s current carbon footprint and aid the development of a robust and realistic plan to achieve “Net Zero” carbon by 2030 and 2050.
David Taylor, interim chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: ”Throughout the pandemic, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership has been working with our sector groups, which are comprised wholly of business leaders, to understand how Covid-19 has impacted on the different sectors. Whilst some of our sectors, such as aerospace and hospitality have been adversely impacted, there are others which have shown real resilience such as energy and low carbon and present diversification opportunities for those experiencing difficulties.
”Whilst the IER will provide us with the evidence we need to support our sectors, the independence of the review means we will be able to truly reflect on and challenge the way in which Lancashire currently works, and how it might work in the future. The IER is a vital component in developing our Local Industrial Strategy and, along with our sector groups, will help to capture the challenges and opportunities arising from Covid-19 to enable economic recovery.”
The review will be supported by Metro Dynamics, a Manchester-based consultancy which specialises in helping organisations to understand the factors underpinning local economic growth, and where to focus in order to maximise investment and overcome barriers to future development.
Mike Emmerich, founding director of Metro Dynamics said: “The places and people of Lancashire have been hit hard by Covid 19 and many businesses are still facing uncertainty over future trading arrangements post Brexit. But this is a vital and successful part of the UK economy and alongside providing support to people and businesses now, it’s absolutely the right time for partners to take a step back and focus on the opportunities and challenges ahead. We are honoured to be asked to help.”