Successful cities require and deserve strong political leadership. Leadership with a compelling vision and a clear narrative. Leadership that engages with a wide range of constituencies to deliver the vision. Leadership that achieves a coherent voice and one that resonates locally, nationally and internationally.
Birmingham Forward believed that such leadership would be created by having an elected mayor. We were disappointed that the citizens of Birmingham decided not to choose this route in the recent referendum. Despite this, the local election in May delivered a new administration under Sir Albert Bore and the Government are committed to devolve further powers locally so a new political landscape is before us. With it brings new opportunities.
Birmingham Forward represents an important business constituency. The business and professional services sector is the source of over 130,000 jobs in the city region, in its broadest terms that equates to 24,000 businesses and delivers £10 billion per annum in GVA to the regional economy.
No-one would argue that as a sector we are a major contributor to the economic prosperity of our city and that we are a key driver for further growth.
It is important then that Birmingham Forward engages with our civic leadership. Not just as some detached commentator on the side but as a critical friend, at the table, making our contribution, creating joint initiatives that support growth and challenging policy where we believe it is having an impact on the sector’s ability to do business.
This has been a big week for Birmingham Forward on Tuesday we held our AGM and welcomed Andrew Springhall as the organisation’s new deputy chair and on Thursday Birmingham Forward was delighted to welcome Sir Albert Bore to a patron’s dinner.
This was our first opportunity to sit down with our new leader and to outline where we believe the priorities for the new administration should be focussed. Before meeting Sir Albert, Forward had surveyed its membership for its views which would inform our mini manifesto for business.
The top three priorities are, perhaps unsurprising, but no less important for that. Access to finance is still a major concern. Therefore we are asking the new administration to look how by working with the GBSLEP and Finance Birmingham, we can work together to ease the path to financing businesses to achieve growth.
Education and skills has always been an issue. In our sector specifically this is not about the ability of firms to recruit the brightest graduate talent. Business requires a skilled workforce through every level of its operations. A successful city needs a pool of well-educated and skilled people to service their business needs. There is much work to be done in ensuring that our schools and excellent range of educational institutions understand what that need consists of and they are able to deliver the skilled workforce that is so vital to our future economic prosperity. Business needs to take a greater part in that vital dialogue.