MPs and Businesses endorse the Eastern Powerhouse
On Tuesday 15 March, the Eastern Powerhouse was officially launched at an evening reception in Westminster, in the company of 100+ leading businesspeople, politicians, and journalists from across the East of England. Each came with their own brilliant ideas about how to move the region forward, and it was a pleasure to see so much enthusiasm for a project which is only now taking its first steps.
From the many invigorating discussions that took place during the evening, the key takeaway seems to be that East of England is much bigger than the sum of its parts – but that until now it has lacked the medium to realise its own importance.
This tendency to underestimate the power of the East – common amongst both outsiders and also the people that live there – is of course not due to incompetence or a lack of ambition. Rather, it is the result of many Easterners struggling to conceptualise what their shared interests are, or that such interests even exist. At present, local areas in the region generally do not collaborate, combine resources, or work together to achieve a common goal. This is a real shame, as the benefits to be gained from working ‘beyond one`s patch’ are incalculable in terms of innovation, productivity, ideas, and skills are incalculable.
In other words, the East is not yet used to thinking regionally. Our inability to talk to one another has marooned our many cities, towns and villages, on their own separate islands; locked in fruitless competition with their neighbours rather than working with common purpose. As George Freeman MP said in his eloquent speech, we cannot afford to keep working in silos. Instead, what we need is a joined-up approach; one which links the East`s infrastructure and scattered economic clusters together into one interconnected entity.
The Eastern Powerhouse will aim to do just that. By gathering members from across the full geographic scope of the region, we will create a platform for the major players of the East to gather together and hammer-out a “business plan for the East”. Properly connecting local areas together will also mean growth in places like Cambridge can spread widely, improving the lives of people in Peterborough, Wisbech, the Fens, our coastal towns, and more.
The Eastern Powerhouse also represents a unique opportunity for the UK as a whole. Regional approaches have been wildly successful in other places in Europe, however as a country we have tended to not do this well. A regional success-story in the East could reverse this trend, leading the UK towards a more polycentric and evenly balanced economy.
If discussions at launch underlined anything, it's that success in the East does not have to be a zero-sum game. What’s good for one town is good for the wider region; what’s good for the region is good for the country; and what’s good for the nation is good for the world. To sum up this spirit up in a single sentence: ‘let’s grow our patch together’. Until now, the Eastern Powerhouse has simply been an idea. Now it has launched however, the pressure is on to make this vision a reality.
To do this, we will continue our fruitful engagement with members and work hard to turn various ‘walls of words’ (this current piece included) into concrete deeds. This process will be driven by our members: you will drive the agenda, you will suggest the projects, and you will decide where funding should be allocated.