Andy Wood: Our chance to shape a vibrant economy

Brexit is an opportunity to reshape the economy. (PA).Brexit is an opportunity to reshape the economy. (PA).
Brexit is an opportunity to reshape the economy. (PA).
The UK is at a pivotal point in its history. As we prepare to leave the European Union, negotiate on international trade and find our new place in the world, we should remember that although there are challenges ahead, there is also a huge opportunity to build on the foundations of the UK's longstanding strengths in industry, and reshape the economy.

But to be successful we cannot stand divided. Recent political events show that government and politicians, nationally and locally, must work collaboratively, just as we did post-war when cross-party collaboration produced solutions that lasted for decades. Businesses and other organisations must also be given and play a pivotal role in shaping this new future.

We’ve witnessed first-hand the productivity that such cross-sector collaboration generates right here in Yorkshire. Over the past 18 months, Grant Thornton has brought together the public, private and third sectors in cities across the UK, including Leeds and Sheffield, at our Live Lab events. We asked people to share their ambitions, ideas and actions for future growth. These actions are already having a positive impact in our City Regions. What we’ve found is that everyone, no matter their sector, community or political persuasion, has a common vision of an inclusive economy – one that is collaborative, open, trusted, connected and prosperous – where markets, businesses and places rediscover their purpose, and create a society that holds opportunities for all.

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Inspired and informed by Live Labs across the country, Grant Thornton has proposed a set of actionable recommendations for the Government which we believe will help to build a positive post-Brexit future. These are outlined in our Blueprint for the UK: Shaping a vibrant economy, which has been shared with Government and civil servants, our recommendations include:

Collaboration for growth: As well as continuing to devolve powers to enable cities, towns and rural areas alike to create their own vibrant local economies, we want to see collaboration placed at the heart of the UK’s industrial strategy, to reinforce the fabric of the UK’s business network and support a long-term plan for domestic and international growth. There is strong evidence to suggest that innovation and exporting will deliver the improved business performance we need, enabled by workforce skills, investment and an ‘openness’ to working with external partners. By incentivising collaboration through a number of initiatives, we will unlock the UK’s full potential as a contributor to the global economy through the development of a healthy talent pool for businesses and public services, sustaining innovation that will put the UK at the forefront of the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, and through the creation of a strong exporting culture reinforced by the introduction of a new tax credit for the cost of researching and entering new markets.

Renewing trust: With trust in businesses falling amongst the public by almost 10% (Edelman Trust Barometer), we also need a systematic approach to restoring this trust and placing integrity at the heart of the economy. We believe that the Government’s aim should be to shift the financial business model to make ‘profits with purpose’ the new normal, with the majority of businesses in the UK delivering wider social and environmental outcomes, as well as profits, and UK savers deciding what benefits their money will reciprocate.

Unlocking talent: Grant Thornton recognises that the leaders of tomorrow are the young people living in our local communities today. A key theme that emerged from our Live Labs was the importance of nurturing talent and developing the skill sets of our young people. In Leeds, for example, a city with a comparatively uneven distribution of wealth, attendees were passionate about supporting young people with equal opportunities regardless of background.

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As the country’s top employer for social mobility, we are committed to providing equal opportunities and will continue the roll-out of our school leavers programme working closely with school and community leaders to increase social mobility across the country.

We believe that if we can unite all sectors and place collaboration at the centre of the Brexit strategy, then vibrant and positive growth for the UK will follow, and we can all help build a positive future and a society that creates opportunities for all.

Andy Wood, is Managing Partner at Grant Thornton Yorkshire.