Ian Hughes introduced the speakers for this item:
1. Cllr Paul Watson (Leader of Sunderland City Council) and Cllr Jon Collins (Leader of Nottingham City Council).
2. Annika Pattberg (Representative for the UK at Germany Trade and Invest)
3. Ken Dytor (Managing Director of Urban Catalyst and Regeneration)
Cllr Watson spoke about the success Sunderland has experienced with inward investment, particularly from the USA and Japan. He believes this is partly due to the consistency of messages in their campaigning. However, there is still some frustration that it can take up to two years to achieve what devolved authorities in Wales can do in 3-5 months. He also noted the dearth of investment leads from UKTI, which seem to be driven by a lack of any regional targets. While Sunderland’s relationship with UKTI can be challenging, Cllr Watson emphasised that they are highly invested in it.
Cllr Collins said that Nottingham’s focus is more on investment thantrade. He believes that work around inward investment has been improving and it is clear that it needs to be locally driven because it is about marketing “place”. Nottingham’s approach so far has been to concentrate on building city-to-city links and strengthening relationships through the Nottingham University, as well as focusing efforts in India and the Punjab as this is a reflection of the community and the already established business links. Their relationship with UKTI has been improving and he believes its role should be to promote growth across the whole of the UK rather than focusing only on London and the South East. Better support is needed from UKTI to market areas outside of the London. Cllr Collins suggested that as UKTI restructures, there should be an opportunity for city regions to influence priorities and show what can be achieved through better balance.
Ms Pattberg explained to members the partner organisations that Germany Trade and Invest works with and the way in which they conduct research to steer potential investors towards the best state for their business.
Mr Dytor told members that it is important to see ‘place’ as more than just roads and building; it includes culture, branding, skills, etc. as well. He believes that China presents a big opportunity for the UK, especially because the Americans have alienated themselves there. He remarked that in his dealings with the government, he has found ministers and senior officials to be engaged and approachable. Mr Dytor therefore thinks that this would be a good moment for the LGA toseekto improve relationships with UKTI and LEPs.
Members discussed the following:
· The work on trade and investment require separate discussions as they hinge on different issues.
· The need to show UKTI that working with city regions is in their own and the nation’s best interests.
· A level playing field is neededbetween England and devolved administrations.
· City regions have a USP on investment as this relates to place, but there are ways to work more effectively with LEPs too.
· The role of universities needs to be tapped into more as well.
· City regions should think about doing more to coordinate amongst themselves and maximise their reach by sharing opportunities.