Our Director, Olaide Oboh was at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham last week to meet with politicians, community and business groups, and to hear first-hand about the policy changes ahead. Olaide gives us her review of her time there…
The conference kicked off with a significant directional change, with the reversal of the 45p tax rate; setting the mood for the rest of the week. Government ministers focused most of their time reiterating significant policies, for example, levelling up and benefit rises. Despite the reassurances, the questions kept coming.
The Chancellor’s introduction of investment
zones was a welcome addition for our sector. The promise of a relaxation of tax
and planning rules to encourage investment sounded like a good idea - but as we
know, the devil is in the detail.
The areas of particular interest to Socius - town centre regeneration, social impact and net zero carbon did feature on the conference agenda, but not much detailed discussion took place as everyone was fixated with the mini-budget.
Despite this backdrop, there were a number of
highlights for me…
One was a Policy Exchange debate, which
outlined what we need to improve our town centres. In a packed room, Michael
Gove and Ben Derbyshire, Chair of HTA, encouraged everyone to embrace
partnership, to strive for beautiful design and to stick to the principles of
levelling up. Ike Ijeh from Policy Exchange left us with four tips to deliver
1) Build better
2) Improve planning
3) Better infrastructure, ideally via public investment
4) Adapt existing heritage assets
Another highlight was listening to Clem Cowton
from Octopus Energy (a company we have huge admiration for) passionately
championing the green energy revolution. She mentioned that this £3 trillion
industry is and will dramatically change UKPLC and we need to get on board -
effectively modernise or die.
Finally, the favourite highlight from
conference was spending time in Birmingham. The city looked amazing - public
art, a diverse retail and leisure offer, and fantastic new buildings in the city
centre. The legacy from the recent Commonwealth Games is already evident with
new public spaces, new homes and a thriving local population.
I spent some time with the Council leaders and
their passion for the future of Birmingham is infectious. I left Birmingham
feeling very positive and keen to return to source some opportunities.