Now is the time to plan a future for the economy in our city. Not just how businesses will thrive and grow in a rapidly changing world, but how all of us can earn the money we need to have somewhere to live, support our families and live healthy and happy lives.
Unemployment may be falling, but that doesn’t mean people are earning the money they need. Nationally 7.4 million people, including 2.6 million children, are living in poverty despite being in a working family. This means that a record high of 55 per cent of people in poverty are in working households.
We have to build an economy that is flexible to changes in our local, national and global economy, but which does not exclude huge numbers of people. Increasing automation and new models of employment should free people to follow more creative careers, not mean they are excluded from a narrowing spectrum of jobs.
We need to identify the kinds of businesses and ways of working we want in our city for the future. Will it be large-scale office-based companies, small and medium-sized enterprises, more home- based, self-employed workers, or a combination of all three?
What are the workplaces of the future going to look like? Do we need more flexible spaces where many businesses can co-exist and collaborate?
How do we deal with the challenges of Brexit, and the opportunities of a strengthening city region that encompasses Gatwick, two ports and world-leading companies like Ricardo? How do we compete with other parts of the country who want a slice of the multi-billion pound creative digital economy?
All these questions were tackled at an Economic Strategy event attended by figures from across businesses and the city this week, convened by the council and the Economic Partnership.
In the New Year I will host a Leader’s Business Summit to try and answer some of these vitally important questions. The world is changing and Brighton and Hove cannot afford to stand still.
Innovation is key, equality and opportunity are the principles we should move forward with, and hope for the future must be our goal.