First meeting this morning was with the Greater Manchester Business Leadership Council. The BLC was set up a couple of years ago to give independent advice to AGMA on what we needed to do to promote business growth.
Since then they have produced a number of invaluable reports that have had a material difference on how we implement the Greater Manchester ( economic ) Strategy but now we are moving into a new world of Local Enterprise Partnership(LEP)s and, for Greater Manchester, the Combined Authority, and they understandably wanted to look at how if at all they fitted into the new economic development architecture. A good and frank discussion and a general concensus that for the time being at least the city-region will benefit from independent advice from senior business people and if anything they could afford to be even more challenging.
Later in the day I meet with the Director of Economic Development from BIS ( Department of Business, Innovation and Skills ) to discuss the transition in the North West from the Regional Development Agency to LEPS. Our concern is that in the key areas of inward investment, business support and skills we will be subject to centrally led government contracts, in some cases one contract for the whole country, contracts over which we have no influence at a local level, and that either duplicate or conflict with what we are already doing locally. Another frank discussion ensues also taking in RDA assets and liabilities in the region, research and intelligence capacity, and the future management of European structural funds. There aren't any immediate answers to the region's concerns but we do agree a number of ways that we can take the discussion forward.
Later still, I'm meeting with the President of Manchester University and a diverse group of people involved in the intellectual, cultural and economic life of the city to discuss the role the University plays and should play on the city stage. Clearly the University is an important national and international player of a significance we want to see continue to grow, but we also want to see that reflected in benefit for its home city and its residents, and for the University to be an integral part of Manchester socially and economically.