FROM THE TOP 10 CLIVE MEMMOTT CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF GREATER MANCHESTER CHAMBER OF COMMERCE A BELATED Happy New Year to you all and what a year it promises to be. The ongoing ramifications of the referendum last year will start to have real impact as we move toward the triggering of Article 50 and details now start to emerge over what a post-Brexit settlement consists of. Up to now, apart from the obvious shifts in exchange rates, there has been very little tangible impact of Brexit – a lot of speculation, yes, but very little that anyone can, with real certainty, pin on the referendum result. The much anticipated speech by Theresa May told us a bit more, but let’s be honest there was nothing in it that we didn’t really know already, it just formalised that speculation. Directly following this, HSBC announced that a significant number of London-based jobs would move to Paris and Toyota announced it would have to re-appraise its future investment strategy in the UK. So things are happening as business starts to work out the future for itself. The Prime Minister has set out her 12-point plan for Brexit. We know some of the objectives and ambitions. We know that the UK will no longer be a part of the single market and the final deal will have to stand the test of both houses of parliament having a vote on it but again still very little detail beyond speculation of what this will mean in reality. It’s good to know what the negotiating position is for government but it’s the outcome of those negotiations that counts. There is also a danger that the specific impact on Greater Manchester and the North West is not being taken account of. We hear about what’s best for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but there also has to be a greater understanding of the needs of the other areas where significant devolution has taken place. It is difficult to know what all this will be like but the worst thing we can do is give in to what is still popular opinion and supposition to back away from making decisions and looking for that next bit of business – at home or overseas. That has to continue, otherwise we will all end up losing and the worst of what could result from Brexit could become very real. The other major issue that is dominating our campaign activity is the upcoming election in May for the first Greater Manchester mayor. We’ve already published our initial thoughts on this outlining a range of actions that you, our members, would like to see the mayor introduce, but like any campaign these will invariably change as the candidates respond and circumstances dictate. Who can guess what for example, if any, the impact of Brexit could be on how the mayoral campaigns are fought? One issue that will play a part in the mayor’s work is the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. This document sets out the strategy that Greater Manchester will use to ensure that future spatial planning, land use and strategic development delivers what is required for growth and economic development as well as making sure that enough houses are built and where these will be. It all sounds very good. However, the more you look into this the more that the issues start to become obvious. One of the issues raised in our campaign document for the mayor is around sequential planning – that is infrastructure (hard and soft – transport, digital, schools, hospitals) should be in place and started before other major new developments are started. How many times are housing estates finished then people suddenly “notice” the traffic starts to get backed up, school places fill quicker and there’s no public transport? That is just crazy and has to stop. There is a logical order to this which doesn’t prevent development, Up to now, apart from the obvious shifts in exchange rates, there has been very little tangible impact of Brexit – a lot of speculation, yes, but very little that anyone can, with real certainty, pin on the referendum result. The much anticipated speech by Theresa May told us a bit more, but let’s be honest there was nothing in it that we didn’t really know already, it just formalised that speculation. but which delivers this in a way that maximises growth. Those schemes will drive economic growth but only if the supporting infrastructure is in place already to meet the increased demands of a much larger local population The thing is that these plans all exist - but in isolation. We think there is a priority action for the mayor to bring all this together in one plan that not only highlights what needs to happen but how it will be delivered in the most effective way using the powers that are available and campaigning for those that still rest under Whitehall’s control. And that is why your voice, that of the local business community right across Greater Manchester, is crucial in all this. It is the mandate for action and we as the UK’s largest, and we like to think most influential, Chamber can help make that happen.
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