Michelle Blayney, Lloyds Banking Group's ambassador for the South East, says bespoke solutions needed to bounce back after Covid crisis


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A tailored approach should make up the foundation of recovery in the South East, says Michelle Blayney, Lloyds Banking Group’s ambassador for the region.

In a special article penned for KentOnline, she said there is no 'one-size-fits-all' solution as the economy looks to build back after the disruption caused by the health pandemic.

Michelle Blayney, Lloyds Banking Group's ambassador for the South East
Michelle Blayney, Lloyds Banking Group's ambassador for the South East

She writes:

The impact of the pandemic has affected everyone differently. Listening to voices from across the UK is essential in helping to understand others and appreciate their circumstances, making our workplaces and communities more inclusive.

This was the driving motivation behind The Big Conversation – a three-month series of roundtable discussions bringing together local businesses, politicians, elected mayors and business groups from all regions and nations of the UK.

The insights we gathered painted a vivid picture of the resilience on display from people up and down the country, not least from those across the South East.

Now, those findings have been collated into The Big Conversation: Helping Britain Recover report, a vital resource harnessing the views of business leaders, policy-makers and community leaders.

Through our conversations we heard many shared experiences. However, the clearest theme was the diversity and divergence between local economies across the country.

Businesses want bespoke solutions for each region as they look to bounce back after the pandemic
Businesses want bespoke solutions for each region as they look to bounce back after the pandemic

The overwhelming feedback was that people want a bespoke regional approach to the economic recovery. There can be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution.

This was undoubtedly the sentiment shared by my fellow panellists during our own Big Conversation here in the South East in November.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, discussion focused on the need to improve the twin issues of housing supply and affordability – an issue which continues to threaten the region’s economic recovery and future prosperity.

Our panellist of regional experts were quick to identify the issues, not least the barriers in meeting new-build housing targets.

New approaches suggested included a framework for councils, developers and local authorities which can be tailored to address unique, hyper-local housing needs.

The overwhelming feedback was that people want a bespoke regional approach to the economic recovery.

With the government’s Help-to-Buy scheme coming to a close in its current form next year and wound down completely in 2023, there were also calls for new measures and mechanisms designed to create a system to replace it that is inclusive of first-time buyers and those who consider home ownership out of reach, and encourages people to progress from one type of tenure to another.

Consensus for an overhaul of the planning system was also clear, with many feeling a devolved system which gives local councils more decision-making powers would be far more effective in identifying the homes our region really needs.

Some of these are new solutions to long standing problems. But what struck me most during The Big Conversation process was the desire for a far more collaborative approach to solving the problems our region faces – to work together in order to find the right way forward.

I believe it is this kind of solidarity which will provide the much-needed impetus for change in the years ahead and serve as a legacy for 2020.

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