Lancashire's leaders have commissioned a new study of the local economy to ensure they're in the best position to help the county recover quickly following the Covid pandemic, reshape public services, and take advantage of future investment opportunities.
The Independent Economic Review aims to create an up-to-date picture of the wider Lancashire economy, and gather information and intelligence to inform and provide evidence to support future decisions and funding bids.
It is being funded and commissioned by Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Blackpool Council and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
The review will help to support a number of emerging priorities, including the development of a separate industrial strategy, the shape of public sector reform and local government reorganisation, and conversations with government about support for the recovery and diversification of the local economy.
The review will be overseen by a panel of national experts from a breadth of backgrounds, including academia, local government, and think tanks. This expertise will be vital for bringing a truly independent view of the Lancashire economy.
To help build as accurate and detailed picture of the local economy as possible, the review will also seek evidence and intelligence from local businesses and communities.
County Councillor Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said: "A combination of factors mean that we're currently at a crucial moment in the development of our local economy, and it's vital that we have the understanding and evidence to support forthcoming decisions which will have a major impact in the medium and long term through a call for evidence in early 2021.
"These include the need to support local businesses due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and conversations with government and local partners about the way public services are funded and organised. The Independent Economic Review will ensure we're well positioned to influence decisions which will affect the future of the county and respond to any opportunities and challenges which arise.
"This study was already planned to take place to support our ongoing work on economic development, but the impact of the pandemic this year means this is now an urgent priority, and I'm glad that Lancashire's leaders have come together to back it."
Councillor Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “The biggest economic shock in generations will obviously have long running impacts on the national and local economy but there is a very strong tradition of manufacturing in Blackburn and Darwen and businesses have historically shown the capacity to come back from major challenges before.
"We are already seeing lots of diversification and we want this to continue with a particular emphasis on the development of the green economy in the face of the world’s climate change challenge.
“This study will help us to understand more about what needs to be done urgently in our borough and across the county, and will help us all to work together to help the economic future of everyone in Lancashire.”
Councillor Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “Blackpool’s tourism and leisure economy has been hit hard during the pandemic and it’s vitally important that we are in the best possible position to understand the needs of our community and provide support for our local businesses through the recovery process.
"A true understanding of the diversity of the Lancashire economy in all its parts is critical to ensure effective collaborative action in the future, and to guarantee that we can present our case as strongly as possible to government, with a focus on evidence based policy-making to build on the progress we have made.”
Rowena Burns has been appointed chair of the independent panel. Rowena has an impressive track record in senior leadership, and is the current chair of Health Innovation Manchester, the organisation responsible for delivering innovation into Greater Manchester’s health and social care sector. Rowena has had a long and distinguished career across the public sector in the north west and has most recently been serving as the chair of Manchester Science Partnerships (MSP), a private/public partnership focussed on driving growth and opportunity in the most vibrant and innovative sectors of the economy.
Rowena Burns, chair of the independent panel, said: "It’s vital that we have a clear and accurate picture of the Lancashire economy to provide a clear pathway for the future, and I look forward to working with partners, businesses and local people to ensure the review offers a representative and credible analysis, and a firm foundation for recovery and future development."
The Independent Economic Review will align with and inform forecasting and evidence work being undertaken to i