Rebalancing the geographic divide is fundamental to transforming the UK’s economy – but there is still a long way to go
The unprecedented levels of change and uncertainty we’re witnessing across the social, economic and political landscape means the focus on the UK regions has never been stronger. Now more than ever, the regions have a key role to play in strengthening the UK’s position on a global stage and fuelling balanced, sustainable economic growth.
The recently launched Industrial Strategy is a welcome sign of the Government’s continued commitment to boost productivity across the whole country. Alongside other initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine, we are clearly making progress in directing investments to help reduce the geographic imbalances between the South of England and the rest of the country.
But there is clearly more to do. Our 2017 Regional Economic Forecast has found that little progress has been made to rebalance the economy over the last three years. There is little sign that the North South divide will narrow over the next three years, with any reduction being largely driven by a slowing economy overall.
Our findings show that we must acknowledge that rebalancing is a more significant and complex challenge than considered to date – and requires radical thinking.
At EY we are committed to helping in that process. Through our research, thought leadership and programmes we aim to help promote and demonstrate the strengths and opportunities that make each region attractive, vibrant destinations for business, investment and talent.
We are also proud to support and work with bodies and networks such as the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Scottish Enterprise, CBI, and Chambers of Commerce to help drive innovative thinking and encourage collaboration.
As a firm we’re also continuing to bolster our own regional presence and investment in the UK regions is fundamental to our own growth strategy, with increasing headcount and investment in real estate, technology and skills. Our regional business includes all our UK offices outside London, consisting of 16 offices with over 3,500 people.
We also work with the EY Foundation to support young people in over 15 locations across the UK through programmes such as Smart Futures. This ten month programme provides Year 12 students with paid work experience and mentoring which can help improve their chances of getting a job after school or going into higher education.
Debbie O’Hanlon, EY Managing Partner, UK Regions
Debbie O’Hanlon leads EY's UK&I National Markets business, which comprises all the UK’s regional offices, outside London. She is on the UK&I Leadership and Management Teams, and is a Trustee of the EY Foundation