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“Strong business input into discussions around devolution is vital”

Square One Law business development partner and chair of Service Network Neil Warwick explains why it is important for businesses to have a voice.

At a private launch earlier this month a senior former national chair of a national business organisation (obviously Chatham House rules applied so all we can say is he is a member of the House of Lords, a TV personality and has a double-barrelled surname) made a comment to the effect that national business groupings were not as effective as they could be, as they were hampered by national policies and their close relationship with government. The suggestion was that independent business groups, like Service Network, will have more success in influencing debates in the future.

Whilst this is potentially a boost for Service Network, it is not an accurate picture of what is happening in the North East. Far from being hampered by national constraints the national organisations, the so-called big 5 (CBI, IOD, FSB, EEF and NECC) have been very supportive of the interaction we have had with local government, the LEPs and even national government.

Throughout this year we have been working through Northern Business Forum (the body which brings together the membership organisations in the North East) to revitalise its membership and ensure that business can have a say in the on-going debates about EU funding, devolution, access to finance in the Region. To date we have had commitments from RTC (North), Asian Business Connections, NEPIC, North East Automotive Alliance, NE1, Entrepreneurs Forum amongst others and discussions continue with a number of other organisations. Through a revitalised Northern Business Forum we have managed to have discussions with the Association of North East Councils, DCLG, BIS, Local Authorities, LEPs, senior business people and last-but-not-least the Business Voice movement which has been initiated by Peter Walls.

There have been occasions where some of the discussions have been quite robust and, at least one point, we also intervened directly with a central government proposal to ensure the Region would achieve a fair deal.

Having attended the Journal Northern Powerhouse Business Breakfast a couple of weeks ago, with four hundred business representatives it was clear that there is still a lot of work to do but that everyone agrees a strong business input into discussions around devolution is vital. The debate at the breakfast meeting was fascinating and fiery in equal measures, but necessary and it may be that one area business could assist with would be to improve communication links between the two LEP areas.

With so many important discussions about to take place in the next 18 months it is important that you let us have your views.

To share your views email neil.warwick@squareonelaw.com or call 0843 224 7939

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