Derby and Nottingham should operate as a ‘metro’ region economically to spur growth, a report says. Historic rivals have complementary economies and should focus on shared priorities and combat government underfunding. Successful collaboration on industrial strategy could generate additional £11bn GVA by 2030. Below, David Williams gives his views on the strategy.
Geldards has offices in both Derby and Nottingham and I regularly commute between the two. This makes me one of the 83% of people who both live and work in and around the two cities as identified in the Metro Dynamics report. In fact the great majority of our staff do the same.
We’ve been here since 1987 and I guess you might have expected us to consolidate our business in Nottingham as the ‘bigger’ city. That would be to misunderstand something I think the Metro Dynamics report makes clear - that the two cities though different are equals. A lot is made of the ‘rivalry’ between them but the evidence presented here shows the economic parity of Derby and Nottingham.
I think this may come as a surprise to many people but it is a really important statement. The reality is that the cities and the surrounding districts are closely dependant; our local residents work in our local companies and our businesses and services are complementary. What Metro Dynamics make perfectly obvious is that we have much more to gain in pursuing what we have in common than in competition.
I was first introduced to the idea of collaboration between Derby and Nottingham by the City Councils when they were consulting on their draft strategy in late 2016. It is often difficult for those of us in the private sector to understand our Local Government partners but this felt like a historic step forward.
I immediately saw the possibilities; the area has everything for enterprise – good transport links including an international airport; globally significant employers and their supply chains; world-class universities; a committed local workforce; fabulous forests and rivers and access to one of the most beautiful national parks in the UK. The weight of the two cities combined felt like the missing jigsaw piece to help glue things together, drive growth and give strength to our voice in regional and national decision and debate.
I was asked to Chair an Advisory Group of partners from business and education to help steer the strategy which was formally launched earlier this year. One of the first challenges was to assess the economic potential and Metro Dynamics were commissioned to bring their independence and experience to examine the evidence.
Their study says that through formal collaboration between organisations covering an area beyond the two cities, a potential additional economic growth in GVA of £11bn is achievable long term.
We cannot ignore this. From a business perspective the next few years are going to be critical to our economy. Last Friday the National Infrastructure Commission recommended that Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc should have a £7bn programme of infrastructure connecting Oxford and Cambridge. Why aren’t they saying it about Derby and Nottingham? This is a £30bn GVA economy with 1.4m people and 600,000 jobs. We are clearly not punching our economic weight. With current uncertainty and Brexit looming this needs to be addressed now.
I only agreed to be part of the Strategic Advisory Group on the basis that it was not a talking shop, nor a front for local government or a tick box for business engagement. This is not about a super Council which is the last thing the area needs.
To progress together and realise our potential it must be a genuine partnership to drive growth, in which business has a prominent role to play alongside Universities, Colleges, District Councils and major stakeholders - where no one partner has greater status or voice.
There is an exhilarating potential in working collectively across this geography but fulfilling our expectations will require ambition and leadership. There are no easy answers to the priorities in this report – inclusive growth, education, in-work poverty and skills. Irrespective of structures or governance we need to focus on areas of mutual economic interest and leave political and organisational interests behind. This will be demanding and difficult, I don’t doubt, though what we achieve will be both exciting and rewarding.
I believe that we have a chance to make a difference and I want to see that happen because it will give confidence to business to invest and grow, which will give more opportunities to people in Derby and Nottingham and the County and Districts around them to reach their goals, which of course will include the employees of Geldards who, like me, have made this area their home.
DERBY AND NOTTINGHAM URGED TO ACCELERATE COLLABORATION TO SECURE £11BN PRIZE