Whitehaven News column – 5th March 2015

Prepare to succeed

Speaking at the South and West Cumbria Economic Growth Summit in Barrow, alongside the town’s MP John Woodcock last week, I told local councils and businesses that we should “prepare to succeed”.

The reality is that we are on the cusp of a genuinely transformational period of activity. Muli-billion pound investments especially in the energy and advanced manufacturing sectors will create demand for tens of thousands of new jobs and will have an unprecedented impact upon our economy. This means that we can create an opportunity economy, one where everyone who is able to access economic opportunities. By our areas working together, we can create an economy where nobody is locked out and create one of the fastest growing sub-regional economies anywhere in Britain.

Unless we prepare to succeed then the chance for us to maximise the benefit of the investments coming our way will be lost. We need to see urgent investment in our schools, our health services, housing and transport infrastructure.

Nobody is going to achieve success for us, we have to achieve it ourselves. It’s taken ten hard years to get to this point and we are now faced with a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Bluntly, we will soon have the chance to build the better Cumbria and the better Copeland that we have always wanted.

So we need to get ready. The task for local government and the public sector is to establish the most progressive pro-business mindset and reputation in the country. This means solving problems, not creating new ones. It means helping and listening to business and it also means business trusting local government more, becoming more pro-active and looking at how it can help deliver our better future.

This means radical but overdue changes to local government in Cumbria. The combination of the County Council with the six district authorities doesn’t deliver what we need. We are about to witness investment greater than the London Olympics. The redevelopment of East London was driven by the Olympic Delivery Authority – do we need something similar in our area now? Maybe. Maybe not – but one thing is clear – the present system does not have long left to run and whichever government wins power in May, reform of local government in Cumbria has to be addressed as soon as possible.

Konnichiwa

And so it was a dash from Westminster – where I’d secured a debate on investment in the A595 – to the Waterfront restaurant on the harbourside where the board of NuGen were meeting with local stakeholders. It isn’t often that you find the Chief Executive of Toshiba, Chief Executive of NuGen and the Vice President of Westinghouse in the same Whitehaven restaurant alongside business people from all over the world. It was a great event and signal of intent for our future – the Waterfront was magnificent on the night and a superb advert for the town; huge thanks to all who made it possible.

Final thought: our huge economic potential is seen in Washington and Tokyo. Is it seen and understood in West Cumbria?

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