Let’s look forward with anticipation to 2021

By Ian Mean Business West Gloucestershire director
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Writing this on the first day that Gloucestershire enters the Tier 4 lockdown, it would be very easy to be full of doom and gloom for business.

I am not and for two key reasons – the triumph of science with the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and the Brexit deal.

Something near normal life, we are told, could well return for Easter if we are able to develop the biggest logistics and delivery exercise with the new vaccine since Wartime.

You wouldn’t bet your house on this Easter prediction but it now gives business the added confidence for their employees to consider returning to work as normal when safe.

And there is added confidence to companies from the Brexit deal.

Yes, it may be a little thin– particularly in the Services sector- which dominate the British economy.

But, and this is a big but, Brexit Britain  could really be Europe’s biggest economy if Boris plays his cards right.

I am not an economist but the Telegraph’s much-respected Liam Halligan says that once the pandemic is finally tamed, post Brexit Britain could boom.

In fact, the Centre for Economic Business and Research is predicting the UK will now outperform the EU over the next 15 years, becoming almost 25 per cent larger than France by the middle of the next decade.

And they claim Britain is on course to outstrip the German economy by 2040. However, looking beyond Covid we face huge challenges to business-not least about our low productivity.

How many times have we said this but nothing happens to improve it?

We simply have to invest more in vocational education.

That is what they do in Germany to produce world class  engineers.

Here in Gloucestershire, we have first class further education colleges fighting to keep apprenticeships alive.

The government must immediately address apprenticeships, which have fallen off a cliff.

And they must offer realistic incentives for hard pressed companies here to invest in our young people.

These young people are increasingly interested in green issues.

I believe that Gloucestershire is well placed to take advantage of this interest and develop a thriving green economy which must now have government support.

I have been impressed, for instance, by the way that Cotswold District Council has been developing a clear, workable strategy to build a local green economy.

The Gloucestershire 2050 project research a few years back told us that we were haemorrhaging young people at an alarming rate.

That is still happening ,and we must develop new streams of business-like green- to encourage our young people  to stay in the county.

What I have seen in business in Gloucestershire is that innovation in our businesses always wins through and that ,surely must be our watchword as we battle to come out of the shroud of Covid.

Gloucestershire will thrive if we support the innovators, and there are plenty of them here.

But currently, many of those innovators are on life support and government must continue to realise that and fully back business in Gloucestershire.

 

Ian Mean is on the main board of GFirstLEP; is an hon. vice president of Gloucestershire College and regional chair for NHSBT(NHS Blood and Transplant)