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Empowering Local Economies – A Key To UK Prosperity

The British Chambers of Commerce new Local Economy Of The Future report sets out 16 policies that could transform the UK’s growth potential by empowering businesses, communities and local government.

Among the crucial changes it recommends are:

• Devolving more powers to regional and local government so decision-making is closer to the issues.
• Giving the National Infrastructure Commission real teeth to influence long-term strategy.
• Accelerating the role out of electric vehicle charging and digital infrastructure to support sustainable connectivity.
• Boosting resources for Local Planning Authorities to unblock the logjam on permissions.
• Expanding the Banking Hub model across the UK to give businesses and communities easier access to finance.
• Ensuring the voice of business is heard in strategy development and decision making at both a local and national level.

The ‘Local Economy Of The Future’ report is being published at an event hosted by North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, on Tuesday 20 February, at Daniel Thwaites HQ, in Mellor Brook, near Blackburn.

It is the third of five policy documents being published by the BCC’s new Business Council as part of the ‘Future of Economy’ project. The report draws on expertise from businesses of all sizes and sectors, academia and think-tanks.

Its proposals aim to increase the productivity of the local economy by letting businesses capitalise on the opportunities provided if their areas are more sustainably focused and digitally enabled.

And it recognises that for places to thrive then three forces need to come together – the community, business and local government.

Among the themes to emerge in the work of the report are the need to provide local government with more resource to speed up its capabilities and capacity around infrastructure planning and transport.

It also identified that the tax system must do more to incentivise the growth of small and medium sized firms by reforming business rates, VAT and tourism charges.

Martha Lane Fox, President of the British Chambers of Commerce and Chair of the Business Council, said:

“When the first Chambers of Commerce were established more than 200 years ago, they set out to fight the corner of businesses in their communities. Our network has always been inextricably linked to the places and people where they are based.

“While much else has changed in that time, the devolution of power and authority to those best placed to decide what works for their local economies has been too slow.

“In this digital age, and on the cusp of a new green industrial revolution, we must finally shift the balance. If we get this right, it will give our local economies, their businesses and communities the best possible chance to thrive in the 21st Century.”

Sebastian Munden, Chair of the Local Economy Of The Future Challenge Group, said:

“If we make a concerted effort to seize the future quickly, the UK has an opportunity to be at the forefront in shaping a more purposeful world economy.

“But too often the country’s ambitions for a brighter future end up fractured and disjointed, as the enablers, and therefore the opportunities, are unevenly distributed across geography and communities.

“If we want a better quality of life and a more circular economy that is better for our planet, then we must bring everyone on the journey, removing the impediments to scale for thriving sustainable businesses, and empowering local strategies for skills and infrastructure.

“Communities tend to prosper where there is strong local leadership, a powerful sense of place, and business is responsibly integrated into decision-making. Creating the framework to sustain this trinity will guarantee our local economies thrive in the future.”

James Timpson, Chief Executive of the Timpson Group and Chancellor of Keele University, said:

“Local communities are the building blocks upon which our economy sits. They are where the people who come together to drive our businesses live, and one cannot survive and prosper without the other.

“These are testing times, and we face major economic challenges but there are also exciting opportunities ahead.

“This report is a strategic roadmap for how we navigate the path before us. It will make sure the big ideas of tomorrow, that are being developed by our business communities, get the best possible chance of success.”

Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said:

“Local economies play an indispensable role in fostering prosperity and sustainable growth within our communities. Emphasising their significance is crucial in promoting self-sufficiency, boosting job creation, and preserving the unique character of our regions.

“By nurturing our local businesses and industries, we reinforce socio-economic resilience, empowering both individuals and communities.”