Productivity key to levelling up for East Midlands, says CBI

Richard Blackmore
X The Business Desk

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New research by the CBI, supported by Lloyds Banking Group, has analysed the comparative economic health of England’s regions, assessing their strength in key criteria around business activity, education, employment, connectivity and social outcomes through a series of scorecards.

These form part of the organisation’s wider Reviving Regions work, highlighting regional successes, as well as the challenges that must be overcome for levelling-up ambitions to succeed in the wake of COVID-19.

CBI metrics show the region’s performance is hindered by below average schools, a lack of graduates within the workforce, and relatively low incomes. The region also ranks poorly for business innovation – and sits rock bottom of the table for the percentage of companies investing in staff training.

The scorecard does contain positive news for the East Midlands, however. It scores above national averages for employment rates, digital connectivity, commuting times and the volume of high-growth enterprise. Social assessment places the region second only to the South West in terms of the life satisfaction of its inhabitants.

Richard Blackmore, CBI East Midlands director, said: “With deep industry roots in the aerospace, rail, automotive and manufacturing sectors, the East Midlands’ strength is in the development of transport technologies, and it has sector expertise in complementary industries such as composite materials and space technologies. Assets such as the Charnwood Science Park, MIRA Technology Park and Space Park Leicester exemplify regional excellence and give the region much to build upon.

“It will take a concerted effort from government, education and enterprise to drive the necessary improvement. Leaders must foster a culture of growth by investing in the infrastructure, people and skills this region needs to combat pockets of deprivation and raise aspiration and attainment.

“Effective partnership between public and private sectors will be essential to enable the East Midlands to rebuild from the economic ravages of COVID-19, close the productivity gap, and lay the foundations for a better and more prosperous future for all.”

Jo Harris, Lloyds Banking Group’s ambassador for the Midlands, said: “There are some serious issues to be tackled if productivity in the East Midlands is to catch up with the rest of England. Challenges around education, business innovation and skills need to be addressed as a matter of urgency and both public and private sector have a significant role to play.

“However, there are also positives – employment is strong, digital connectivity is good and importantly, people who already call it home know the East Midlands is a great place to live.

“There’s a lot to be done, but by working together, we can help the region come through the other side of the pandemic stronger than ever before.”

The CBI hopes its study can help focus minds in business and government on regional growth priorities ahead of the release of its Seize The Moment economic vision next week.