Westminster Social Policy Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Next steps for economic growth and development in the Midlands

Morning, Wednesday, 9th June 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will assess the next steps for driving economic growth and development in the Midlands - and the policy agenda following the Mayoral election.

Discussion will focus on improving infrastructure, ensuring balanced growth, and securing regional recovery from the pandemic.

It takes place in the context of:

  • the government’s ‘levelling up’ policy agenda
  • regional funds being developed to replace EU funding following Brexit
  • the wider reopening of the economy post pandemic
  • the planned devolution and local recovery white paper due later this year

Overall, the agenda will bring out latest thinking on:

  • progress and priorities - looking at the way forward for economic development and moving towards goals of the Midlands Engine
  • strategies for growth - key sectors, stakeholder collaboration, addressing needs of communities, and the policy agenda following the elections in May this year
  • investment and employment - diversifying funding sources, new government support, business confidence, and careers and skills development
  • infrastructure priorities - looking at transport, homes and digital connectivity
  • emerging technologies and an economic green recovery - supporting the innovation base, research commercialisation, and preparing the region’s route to net-zero
  • policy priorities - looking at recovery across the Midlands economy, and establishing the region as a key driver of national growth

The agenda

  • Economic development needs for the Midlands and progress toward achieving goals of the Midlands Engine
  • Delivering a strategy for regional economic recovery - priorities for growth in key sectors, stakeholder collaboration, addressing needs of communities, and the policy agenda following the elections
  • Investment and jobs growth in the Midlands - diversifying funding sources, targeting new government support, promoting business confidence, and matching careers and skills development programmes to future needs
  • Infrastructure priorities for the Midlands - transport, homes and digital connectivity
    • A rail transport network that supports passenger and business needs - connectivity expansion, congestion reduction, and high-speed rail integration
    • Housing rollout - cross-regional spatial plans, supporting delivery partners, and improving affordability
    • Digital infrastructure, and regional readiness for full-fibre networks and 5G
  • Opportunities for the Midlands to lead in emerging technologies and ride the wave of government’s Green Industrial Revolution aims - supporting the innovation base, research commercialisation, and preparing the region’s route to net-zero
  • Policy priorities for recovery across the Midlands economy, and establishing the region as a key driver of national growth

Areas for discussion:

  • economic recovery:
    • policy - developing a recovery strategy for the Midlands, including:
      • support measures for key growth industries
      • transition plans for business
      • the scope of future frameworks for policy tools after the local and mayoral elections
    • regional priorities - discussing how best to meet the region’s needs, including:
      • scaling up cross-regional collaboration
      • developing public and private partnerships
      • catalysing new economic opportunities
    • investment - overcoming obstacles to inward and regional business investment, looking at:
      • steps for restoring investor confidence
      • priority areas for business expansion
      • what more is needed from government to replace EU funding programmes following the UK’s exit from the EU
    • employment - discussion on how to boost jobs growth, skills development and career opportunities in the region, including:
      • jobs programmes with growth industries
      • developing long-term plans
      • dovetailing projects with the Government’s levelling up agenda for addressing regional inequalities
  • infrastructure development:
    • rail - looking at what is needed to ensure it can meet current and future needs, including:
      • track improvements - priorities for investment, policy and construction
      • connectivity - expansion within and beyond the Midlands
      • supporting consumer needs - looking at enhanced capacity and reduced congestion
    • housing - accelerating building rollout in the region, and overcoming barriers to development, including:
      • identifying capacity needs
      • cross-regional planning and strategy creation
      • increasing affordability through scale
    • digital infrastructure - what is needed to ensure it is fit for purpose, such as expanding full-fibre networks, 5G capabilities, and enabling the Midlands to take advantage of industry opportunities
  • emerging technology:
    • establishing regional leadership - opportunities for the Midlands to lead in new sectors and productive industries, through:
      • leveraging investment for innovation centres
      • commercialising new technologies
      • enhancing capabilities in high-value industry and manufacturing
    • a bottom-up approach - supporting a grass roots attitude to technology development, such as mobilising universities, engaging with local SMEs, and building domestic supply chains
  • decarbonisation:
    • coordination - creating joined-up strategy and overcoming challenges to achieving net-zero ambitions for the Midlands
    • the energy mix - looking at energy supply, developing low-carbon technologies, and opportunities for involving regional industries

A scan of relevant developments:

  • the Midlands Engine - a broad policy initiative to drive economic growth across the region and maximise its potential, leveraging expertise and engagement from across the economy, including local business partnerships and industry and city leaders
  • Midlands Rail Hub and Midlands Connect:
    • a Midlands Connect transport strategy due for publication in late 2021, updating the 2017 version to work towards goals around the levelling up agenda and economic recovery
    • as well as continued development on the Midlands Rail Hub, which aims to deliver £2bn of improvements to east-west rail connections
  • High-Speed Rail Two Phase 2a:
    • enhancing direct rail connectivity between the Midlands, London and the South of London
    • as well as aiming to establish high-speed rail connections across cities in the Midlands and the North of England
  • the Levelling Up Fund - backed by £4bn:
    • designed to support a holistic approach to addressing economic inequality across English regions like the Midlands
    • providing support for local infrastructure, business and community schemes
  • the UK Shared Prosperity Fund:
    • intended to replace the investment schemes from the EU following Brexit, such as the Midlands Engine Investment Fund
    • the fund will provide support for regional development projects including infrastructure and business
  • Local and Combined Authority Mayoral elections - in May 2021, which will elect a new set of leaders across English regions, including the Midlands
  • the National Infrastructure Strategy:
    • outlining long-term priorities for infrastructure development across the UK up to 2050
    • paying particular attention to rebalancing the economy and guiding investment into regions like the Midlands, with support for:
      • facilitating growth and recovery
      • funding transport projects
      • improving connectivity
      • accelerating the drive for net-zero
  • Budget 2021 - intended to outline a financial policy pathway for the UK after the pandemic, including:
    • leveraging investment and policy support for the Midlands regions, including:
      • intra-city transport settlements
      • regional connectivity enhancements
      • funding schemes for businesses, innovation centres and communities
    • a recommitment of over £600bn public investment to support the Government’s levelling up agenda over this Parliament
    • a £100bn capital programme to support the economy and businesses
    • measures intended to reduce taxes paid by companies that invest in plant and machinery upgrades

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the Environment Agency; the MHCLG and the Office for Product Safety and Standards

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from stakeholders in the Midlands including local council representatives, resident associations business consultancies, environmental groups, urban and city planners, transport companies, project coordinators, investment firms, land developers, law firms, researchers in academia and higher education, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speaker

Nick Abell

Chair, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership


Darren Henry MP

Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on the East Midlands

Jack Dromey MP

Secretary, All-Party Parliamentary Group for the West Midlands


Professor Simon Collinson

Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Professor of International Business and Innovation, University of Birmingham

Michael Gallagher

Regional Energy Projects Manager, Midlands Energy Hub

Dr Adel Aneiba

Associate Professor in IoT, Department of Networks and Cybersecurity, Birmingham City University

Chris Wright

Chief Executive Officer, Catch22

Trevor Ivory

UK Head of Planning and Birmingham Managing Partner, DLA Piper

Andrew Pritchard

Director, Policy & Infrastructure, East Midlands Council

Louise Brooke-Smith

Board Member, Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP and UK Head of Development and Strategic Planning, Arcadis