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How we can support recovery

While we are continuing to live through a pandemic, our thoughts are moving towards the future and how society, and business in particular, can recover. Vicky Andrew, LSCA president and LSCA Business Board member writes.

Vicky Andrew

September 2020

Four months ago, I wrote a piece for this journal about the effects of Covid-19 on our personal and professional lives. Life has moved on since then, but we are still living with the virus and continue to look to an uncertain future.

Contributing to the conversation on recovery

The recovery of businesses and wider society is very much on the agenda of the London Society of Chartered Accountants. In July, the LSCA Business Board contributed to the ICAEW’s submission to the BEIS super-inquiry on Post Pandemic Economic Growth. This inquiry, described as “wide-ranging and ambitious” looked at the options available to Government to secure the UK’s economic recovery from the impact of Covid-19; covering investment, industrial strategy, jobs, skills, exports and sustainable growth.

The Business Board’s discussion focussed on three key areas: stimulating growth, Local Enterprise Partnerships, and the role of Government. We are continuing this crucial conversation at the LSCA’s next Main Committee meeting in September, at which Iain Wright, ICAEW’s Director of Business & Industrial Strategy, will attend and gather insights from the local committee.  

Key areas for investment 

Many thought leaders have stressed the need to “build back better” and this is the theme of a report issued last month by the LSE, a joint project between the Centre for Economic Performance and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.  

The authors of this report say that, by taking action on infrastructure, education, innovation, the environment and local governance, the Government can boost the confidence of consumers and businesses, and avoid fears of an economic depression becoming a self-fulfilling reality.  

The report sets out five key areas where investment is necessary:

  • Physical capital – strategic investments in projects, such as retrofitting buildings to make them more efficient and resilient. This would create new jobs and build capacity for a smart, digital future. Such investments could be boosted by establishing a new National Investment Bank to leverage private finance.
  • Human capital – investing in education and skills at all ages, with particular focus on improving outcomes for disadvantaged students, which would help to ‘level up’ opportunities and regions.
  • Natural capital – investing in land restoration, tree planting and water management, supporting this with projects to reduce air pollution and expand green spaces.
  • Social capital – developing a vision for an inclusive and sustainable recovery will need the involvement of local businesses and communities. Local policy change can help embed some of the positive aspects of the recent behavioural changes, such as family-friendly working habits.
  • Knowledge capital – revise the Industrial Strategy and accelerate plans for clean innovation. There is also a need to strengthen research and development capabilities.

Much of this is already part of the Government’s strategy, as we saw from Alok Sharma’s announcement in July of an ambitious “R&D Roadmap” to reinforce the UK as the world’s leading research and ‘science superpower’. This plan focuses on attracting global talent and cutting unnecessary bureaucracy, ensuring that the UK is the best place in the world for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs to live, work and innovate. 

London’s recovery strategy 

Here in London, the recovery strategy is being led by the London Recovery Board alongside the London Transition Board, both co-chaired by the Mayor of London.

The London Transition Board brings together representatives from Government and Local Authorities, as well as London’s core services and business leaders to co-ordinate immediate responses to trends, issues and risks emerging from the pandemic. 

The London Recovery Board co-ordinates the planning for London's long-term recovery effort, beyond the transition from lockdown. Membership of the Recovery Board is drawn from London Councils, business leaders, the community and voluntary sector, trade unions, academia and the health and police services. 

According to www.London.gov.uk the aims and principles of the London Recovery Board are;

  • To reverse the pattern of rising unemployment and lost economic growth caused by the economic scarring of COVID-19,
  • To support our communities, including those most impacted by the virus,
  • To keep young people safe,
  • To narrow social, economic and health inequalities,
  • To deliver a cleaner, greener London,
  • To ensure that Londoners are at the heart of the recovery – by encouraging engagement, involvement and inclusion.

Whatever shape the recovery takes, we will need joined-up thinking between national and local government as well as business and the not-for-profit sector. If you want to contribute to the LSCA’s discussion on recovery, get in touch at president.london@icaew.com

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