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How Do We Build Flourishing Regions?

Festival of Ideas

Watershed  |  Free

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We are entering a critical period for the UK with a new government this year and an economy still struggling. It is likely that devolution will continue but arrangements remain fractured and local areas remain starved of resource and with weak powers to deliver. What lessons can be learned from the successful work of northern authorities in securing better devolution? Will the treasury object and oppose further devolution? Can north and south grow together? What can the next government do to secure better and fairer economic growth? And what does this mean for Bristol and the West of England?

These are the first two events in a new national programme led by the Growing Together Alliance. Building on Bristol’s successful biennial Festival of the Future City, it seeks a better future for our places.

Part One (book here for this) looks at building flourishing regions. Part two (book here for this) looks at what this means for Bristol and the West of England and includes the launch of Futures West – a new research institute for the West of England.

Questions to be addressed:

What are the politics now of devolution?

What will central government give and where will Whitehall resist?

What can metro mayors and other areas ask for?

Does the current and next government have a southern strategy for growth and devolution?

How can the next government spur economic growth with constrained finances, and how can devolved areas help deliver?


12.30 Registration

  • Watershed café/ bar open for refreshments

13.00-13.10: Welcomes

  • Jaya Chakrabarti – business leader and past president Business West
  • Stephen Peacock – CEO, Bristol City Council

13.10-14.15 Where are we with devolution and what can the next government do better?

  • Chair: Heather Stewart, Special Correspondent at The Guardian
  • Andrew Carter, CEO, Centre for Cities
  • Jane Robinson, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Engagement and Place, Newcastle University
  • Philip Rycroft, Former Permanent Secretary DEXEU and Director General and former Director General in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office

14.15-14.25 Break

14.25-15.30 Does the next government have a southern strategy?

  • Chair: Peter Foster, Public Policy Editor, Financial Times
  • Ahmed Goga, Great South West, former CBI regions and cluster, OxLEP & GFirst LEP board member
  • Hannah Hickman, Academic, and professional planner, with a specialist research interest in strategic planning and the politics of growth management, from UWE 
  • Angus Horner, Former Shareholder and Campus Director at Harwell. Founder of Prorsus
  • Dan Thorp, CEO of Cambridge Ahead

15.30-16.00 Tea and coffee break

16.00-17.00: How can the next government spur economic growth with constrained finances, and how can devolved areas help deliver?

  • Chair: Andrew Kelly, Director of Bristol Ideas  
  • Muniya Barua, Deputy CEO, Business London
  • Diane Coyle, Co-Director Bennett Professor of Public Policy, University of Cambridge
  • Darren Jones, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
  • Henri Murison, CEO, Northern Powerhouse Partnership  

17.00-18.00 Drinks

Speakers Include:

Richard Bonner has recently joined Atkins as its new market director for buildings and places. Richard Bonner has worked in the infrastructure sector for 30 years, most recently as a Northern Cities director for Arcadis.

Muniya Barua is Deputy Chief Executive at BusinessLDN where she leads the Policy, Campaigns and Communications team, with responsibility for overall business strategy, impact, influencing, through leadership and membership. She was previously Managing Director of Policy and Strategy, and before that she ran the Corporate Affairs team.

Andrew Carter

Andrew Carter is the Chief Executive of the Centre for Cities and before that he was the Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Policy and Research. He has over 20 years of experience in urban economic policy working for public and private development agencies, consultants and research institutes.

Jaya Chakrabarti

Jaya Chakrabarti is a digital activist using open data and technology for good. She is the director of Nameless Media Group and the social enterprise Semantrica Ltd, which runs the corporate transparency platform and eco-transparency platform She was president of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative 2021-2023.

Professor Dame Diane Coyle is the Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge. Diane co-directs the Bennett Institute where she heads research under the themes of progress and productivity. Her latest book is ‘Cogs and Monsters: What Economics Is, and What It Should Be‘ on how economics needs to change to keep pace with the twenty-first century and the digital economy.

Peter Foster is the public policy editor of the Financial Times. His brief covers all aspects of UK policy, including skills, investment and the implementation of Brexit; the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the UK government’s domestic ‘levelling up’ agenda.

Ahmed Goga is the first Director of the Great South West, a business-led partnership covering Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset focused on driving investment into the region and promoting the world class potential of the industries, technologies, businesses, and workforce located in the south west of England. He has worked extensively at national and regional level in public policy and economic development having held senior roles with KPMG, AECOM and, most recently, as UK Director for Regions & Clusters at the CBI.

Hannah Hickman is Associate Professor of Planning Practice in the Faculty of Environment and Technology. She joined UWE as a member of staff in 2017 after a career involving senior leadership roles in both the public and private sectors as a professional town planner.

Angus Horner is the former Shareholder and Campus Director at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus and Director of Prorsus. In 2013, he founded what is now the 50% private sector shareholding in the Harwell Campus Partnership, to help UK Government accelerate growth from a working population of 4,700 to ultimately over 20,000 people, to generate major GVA impact in the UK economy. Angus is a firm believer in the power of research and innovation to deliver improved health, economic and social wellbeing. Angus is a Deputy Lieutenant of Oxfordshire and Deputy Chair of OxLEP.

Darren Jones

Darren Jones is the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and has been the Labour MP for Bristol North West since 2017. He has also been Chair of the House of Commons Business and Trade Committee, leading Parliament’s oversight of one of the largest departments in government. Prior to working in Parliament, Darren worked as a solicitor, with a particular focus on the energy and telecommunications sectors.

Jessica Lee is Director of Strategy for the West of England Combined Authority, and her responsibilities include leading the development of the region’s strategy to deliver its priorities for sustainable economic growth. Jess has been a member of the leadership team since the Combined Authority’s inception in 2017. Previously she spent 13 years at HM Treasury in various policy roles including as Deputy Director for Growth and Productivity.

Henri Murison was appointed the first Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership – an independent body established to represent the voice of major business and civic leaders across the North, by the RT Hon George Osbourne MP.

Jack Newman is a Research Fellow at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol. His research asks how the reform of political institutions can lead to more effective public policy. With a focus on spatial inequality and English devolution, he has worked on projects on local policymaking (University of Surrey), the UK constitution (University of Cambridge), and productivity (University of Manchester).

Stephen Peacock is Chief Executive of Bristol City Council, having previously been the council’s Executive Director for Growth and Regeneration with achievements including the City Leap decarbonisation project, Temple Quarter regeneration and the council’s house building programme.

Nick Pearce is Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at the University of Bath.

Jane Robinson is the University’s first Pro-Vice Chancellor, Engagement and Place and is building on many of the lessons she learned in her previous role as Chief Executive of Gateshead Council and Chief Operating Officer at Durham University. These include how culture plays a role in defining a ‘place’ and how partnerships can tackle social and economic challenges.

Philip Rycroft was appointed as Permanent Secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union in October 2017. As Permanent Secretary, he was responsible for leading the department in all its work on the Government’s preparations for Brexit.

Heather Stewart is a special correspondent for the Guardian. She was formerly the Guardian’s political editor.

Dan Thorp has been Chief Executive at Cambridge Ahead since July 2023 having previously been Director of Policy and Programmes for four years. Thorp leads a programme of research and analysis driven by a focus on sustainable and inclusive growth into the long-term. This involves working closely with national and local policymakers so that Cambridge Ahead actively helps shape the future of the Cambridge city region.

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