The road to economic recovery in Yorkshire

3 min read

During the past few months, we have been fighting a devastating global pandemic that has changed the way people live and how businesses operate. As we continue to tackle the challenge, we are bringing together clients, public sector specialists and leading business representatives to share knowledge and find the best solutions to emerge stronger from the crisis.

Mace organised a virtual event with the Bank of England’s Juliette Healey, Agent for Yorkshire and Humber, and some of Yorkshire’s leading businesses and public sector representatives, to discuss the Bank’s economic forecast and its impact on property and infrastructure plans and long-term vision.

While the picture looks similar across all regions in the UK, with unemployment expected to grow in the coming months and reduced consumer spending, our clients raised the question of long-term behavioural changes and the way these could impact infrastructure plans for the Yorkshire region.

Key forecast take-away for Yorkshire

With many infrastructure programmes underway across sectors in Yorkshire, there is a concern from businesses around when we will see the economy start running again, and more importantly, what will it look like, following unprecedented economic policy measures. This was echoed by Mace’s virtual event guests, who are drawing up their own plans for the future.

For Yorkshire, the key take-away is the likelihood of continued low investment and reduced innovation, which has the potential to weigh on productivity. To address this and to be able to support growth, we need businesses in all sectors to work with public authorities and consultants to find alternative routes to productivity rather than relying on investment in the short-term.

While the economy pauses on radical innovations for a while, consultants can spot the incremental opportunities for organisational and project changes, helping clients reduce costs associated with project and programme spending for example.

Adapting to long-term behavioural changes

But tackling productivity in the short-term and surviving the crisis in not enough.

Our virtual event audience raised questions around behavioural changes that will trigger a re-think of what workplaces and transport have to deliver even long after the crisis. Changes in public behaviour will ultimately depend on final Government guidance once the dust is settled, around social distancing measures and the work environment.

In Yorkshire, working with councils and public authorities will be vital to supporting people commuting to work and following social distancing measures. The future of the workplace is clearly occupying the minds of many. Whilst there was a general view that real estate footprints will reduce overall, there is also a clear indication that high quality flexible workplaces that support team working and collaboration will have a clear place in the ‘new normal’.

There will be some reluctance from people to go back to the workplace and in the short to medium term, good quality engagement and communication with the workforce will be vital. Longer term changes in behaviour will make a difference to working patterns and how both the home and the workplace are viewed in this context. A workplace strategy that responds to the crisis and looks to the future has to go hand in hand with a degree of home working for many and high quality, safe transport solutions.

Walkability is an issue in many northern towns and cities, and cars might be only a short-term solution as we look to more sustainable ways of commuting safely. Constant communication and engagement between public and private sector is the only way to evolve and transform means of transport in the regions, in a way that keeps communities safe and protects the environment at the same time.

The challenges to recovery from COVID-19,  together with impending Brexit which has dipped out of the media spotlight but nevertheless looms large, will test the creativity and resilience of both public and private sector business across Yorkshire and the North. From the evidence on display at our event together with strong collaboration across the region, we are well placed for a strong economic recovery.