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Question Time event underlines collaboration call and deep-seated desire for no devolution delay

Discussion chair, Dave Laister, PR and Media Director at Fred Marketing, reflects on the themes that emerged from our recent Question Time panel event as part of Humber Business Week, and shares his view from the lectern.

Caption: Mark Pearson-Kendall, managing partner at Andrew Jackson Solicitors, centre left, welcomes the panel. From left, Simon Green, chief executive of Humber Freeport; Diana Taylor, managing director of Future Humber; Jo Barnes, managing director of Sewell Estates; James Doyle, group managing director of JR Rix and Dave Laister, PR and media director at Fred, who chaired the event.

A Question Time-themed event for Humber Business Week – suddenly thrust into an election run-in – could have had the potential to be a real hot potato to host. 

While overt party politics would be off the table, so many live issues have connections requiring regular Westminster intervention. Strong views, evidenced arguments, opposing ideologies, preferences and expectations were all in the melting pot. With devolution not fully over the line on either bank, freeport status in its infancy and well up for super-charging, skills funding distribution and so much more with answers and angst capable of heading south quicker than Hull Trains, I was ready to tow a careful line.  

But there was no need for concern. A need for collaboration, and a definite desire to avoid any delay or pulling apart of what has been achieved thus far was clear. When it comes to devolution, the focus is on ensuring the respective regions work well together, and recognising the absolute importance of the economic benefit of the Energy Estuary is paramount. 

While London may feel closer to the Humber than Barton does to Stamford when it comes to policy and perceptions, there can be no doubting how allied Grimsby, Immingham and Hull are by key business drivers.  

The strong audience listening to the stellar panel was well aware too, no doubt buoyed by being welcomed to the city headquarters of Andrew Jackson Solicitors, a law firm with its roots firmly in maritime trade, underlined by the striking of the ship’s bell to begin proceedings. 

A pause is inevitable in the push for more power on a local level – enforced by the dissolution of parliament – but ensuring the play button is quickly hit on devolution swiftly after a new government is elected is vital.  

And much of the chat emanating from the themes came down to place. Simon Green guided us through freeport opportunity, and Diana Taylor, managing director of bondholder organisation Future Humber, underlined the importance of unearthing the previously unwritten values upon which the region is based. Reinforcing them, on repeat, is the ask.  

Key employer representation from Sewell Group managing director Jo Barnes and JR Rix group managing director James Doyle ensured a highly qualified workplace perspective too.  

Four years on from the necessity to work from home, the importance of encouraging and enabling a thriving city centre was stressed when it comes to flexible or hybrid models. A strong desire to encourage more professionals, and professional firms of scale too, to support the decarbonisation-linked agenda and breathe more aspiration and opportunity in was aired, and while meeting the requirements of new entrants to the labour market.  

The panel was clear this should not be at the detriment of talent development too, with mentoring and enable existing teams to excel, and the benefits of office osmosis, seeing how colleagues handle situations, described as invaluable.  

Optimism was high about what the future holds, whatever July’s election outcome, and nods of appreciation and agreement were evident as Mr Green concluded “the big tectonic plates are all moving in our direction, and we are on the cusp of greatness in the Humber”.
Let’s take those necessary next steps as soon as possible.   

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