Over the last week, in autumn statement and the Prime Minister's speech to the CBI, the government has set out its direction of travel for Britain as we leave the EU.
In terms of priorities this has quite a close fit with our own thinking at Grant Thornton. The government approach maps to the three areas we have identified for shaping a vibrant economy:-
- building trust and integrity in markets: Theresa May has described corporate governance reform (governments green paper due before Christmas) as one aspect of restoring public "faith" in business.
- unlocking growth: this was central to both autumn statement and the PM's CBI speech: industrial strategy; a focus on productivity; making the UK the best place to innovate and to scale up.
- cities and places where people and businesses can thrive. The Prime Minister has emphasised the need for growth to be spread out to all parts of the UK. The Chancellor committed to further devolution to cities and to focus additional spending on infrastructure (including transport and broadband) and housing.
What is also clear is that ministers appreciate that a vibrant economy can only be built through collaboration between business, not-for-profit and the public sector. Government alone can not and should not be the solution to all our issues.
We agree with this approach and priorities. And the conversations we have been having with people across the country (for example with 200 people in Manchester yesterday ) show that there is an appetite for this type of approach. So is it job done - we can leave it to the government?
The answer is no. The government has set out a direction of travel but to meet the massive challenges we face this needs to be bold and ambitious. It needs to tackle some big systemic issues we face as the economy undergoes huge change, driven by technology, demographics and globalisation. Governments tend to shy away from radical change and ‘grown up’ conversations - which may be unpopular - about the true nature of change in our society. Dynamic organisations across the economy have to keep challenging. So far the actions and proposals by government are baby steps - a good start but perhaps a little timid compared to the scale of the issues.
We all – organisations across society and the economy - also have to help government: to say things they can't, to open up the debate. To embolden other organisations and businesses to support systemic reforms. And we have to challenge when government actions don't seem to fit with values - such as the unwillingness to give a firm assurance that EU people currently working in the UK will retain their rights after Brexit. And finally, government policies are not the only solution. As a business we have to be part of the solution - to be actors in the change and to start shaping a vibrant economy ourselves.
We are seeking to stimulate ideas and actions that can create a vibrant economy – one which realises the shared potential of businesses, cities, people and communities across the UK