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)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
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 recovery and development in the Midlands - priorities for growth, infrastructure, and the Midlands Engine


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

This conference focuses on the next steps for the Midlands Engine.

Key stakeholders and policymakers will examine latest research on what is needed to deliver economic growth in the Midlands, and discuss how to address the challenges for achieving it.

Of course, we expect there to be a focus across the conference on the way forward for the region in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic - taking into full account the human cost, but in particular focusing on what will be needed from local stakeholders and from government for the Midlands economy to regain its momentum. It follows the release by the WMCA of a plan to put climate change at the centre of economic recovery with a target of the West Midlands being carbon neutral by 2041.

The discussion in detail:

  • The first Independent Economic Review from the Engine, designed to better understand the opportunities and challenges for growing the Midlands economy, which raises issues in the areas of:
    • productivity - and its variability between different sectors in the Midlands
    • for starting and growing businesses  - and the challenges relating to skills, infrastructure (including East-West transport), and access to finance
    • moving forward - on collaboration in science and innovation, industrial digitisation, support for international business opportunities, and addressing outdated perceptions of the region
  • Delivery of local industrial strategies (LIS) across the region and how best to balance economic growth
  • Priorities for the Midlands Engine Internationalisation Strategy - with a focus on developing strategic partnerships, global trade and attracting foreign direct investment
  • Creating the optimum conditions for economic growth, including the way forward for:
    • developing strategic partnerships for the Midlands - including in research and collaboration on innovation
    • increasing the region’s involvement in global trade
    • attracting foreign direct investment
  • Strategies for developing dynamism and skills in the regional economy:
    • Supporting local authorities and industries in the region, looking at innovation and utilising research strengths areas such as civil engineering, manufacturing and space technology
    • Skills development, including priorities for the refreshed strategy on productivity and wages
  • What local communities and businesses need from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, to effectively replace and build upon EU Structural Funding
  • Infrastructure development, finance and delivery:
    • Regional connectivity and HS2 - following the publication of the Oakervee Review of HS2
    • Regional transport - priorities for rail investment in Midlands, and the ongoing work of Midlands Connect in developing the other six schemes within the Midlands Engine Rail Programme
    • Digital connectivity - developments in increasing mobile coverage and the roll out of full-fibre broadband, and the recent 5G pilot initiatives
    • Housing - priorities for meeting demand across the region
    • Environmental priorities and transition to net zero - how to ensure that infrastructure supports current aims, including developing eco-friendly homes and improving public transport
    • Funding of future projects - what more can be done to drive public and private investment to the region

Developments that are relevant to the discussion:

  • Analysis by KPMG finding that the Midlands will be the region hardest hit in the UK by the economic turndown resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy, which sets out plans to boost the region as an advanced manufacturing hub, and takes place with further LIS due to be published
  • The forthcoming refreshed Midlands Engine Strategy - due to focus on regional collaboration and growing the economy
  • Local councils and transport bodies in the East Midlands releasing a £2.7bn plan to improve transport networks that can join up to the HS2 East Midlands Hub station at Toton
  • The Midlands Rail Hub Project receiving £20m in investment in the Budget, meaning that an Outline Business Case can now be made - with more detailed planning on design and costing
  • Government issuing a ‘Notice to proceed’ on HS2 - approving main design and construction works to move forward in line with latest public health advice
  • The Independent Construction Commissioner’s role extended to include oversight of HS2 Phase 2a - now also working to improve community relations on the West Midlands to Crewe route
  • The National Infrastructure Strategy and the Infrastructure Finance Review, both due to be published

The agenda:

  • The Midlands Engine Independent Economic Review - key findings and implications
  • Creating optimum conditions for economic growth in the Midlands:
    • How to prioritise rail investment in the Midlands
    • Implementing local industrial strategies - raising productivity, utilising data and engaging effectively with business
    • Attracting strategic partnerships, global trade and foreign direct investment
    • Strategies for creating a dynamic regional economy - R&D and innovation as drivers of sustainable and inclusive growth
    • Supporting manufacturing and high performing industries in the Engine
    • Priorities for economic recovery post-COVID
  • Financing and developing infrastructure to support economic growth:
    • Meeting local housing needs and supporting growth - increasing supply, improving affordability and making best use of land
    • Priorities for regional connectivity and HS2 post Oakervee review
    • The future for digital infrastructure in the Midlands - accessibility, full-fibre networks and 5G test beds
    • Assessing strategies for decarbonisation, improving biodiversity net-gain and enhancing natural capital
    • The future for project finance following the Infrastructure Finance Review
  • Delivering the Refreshed Midlands Engine Strategy

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

It’s certainly the case with this one. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the Cabinet Office; DCMS; Defra; the Department for Education; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; the Department for International Trade; the Department for Transport; the Environment Agency; the Health and Safety Executive; Homes England; MHCLG; the Midlands Engine Investment Hub; the Office of Rail and Road; Ofwat and the Planning Inspectorate.

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

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording 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

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

Shortly after every Westminster Social Policy Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates