Leaders discuss the future of MK

STRATEGICALLY minded businesses in Milton Keynes and beyond came together to try to find an enterprise-led focus for a newly created partnership.

Scores of delegates to the STARR Chamber meeting at Jury’s Inn, Central Milton Keynes, on December 7, were told the government’s cuts agenda has opportunities for them.

A host of big spending regional development agencies and government offices are set to be abolished from next April. In their place will be local enterprise partnerships, specifically the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) covering the Milton Keynes area.

The budgets of the bodies being abolished will at least in part be handled by SEMLEP, making it important for businesses to gain at least some control over the agenda.

Rita Spada, chief executive of Milton Keynes and North Bucks Chamber of Commerce, said: “The growth of Milton Keynes, which was a given and embedded in the culture is no longer a guarantee.

“Plans, structures and mechanisms will fall away from next April but there is an opportunity there if we take it.”

The make up of SEMLEP us officially 50 per cent from local authorities and 50 per cent from business. There will be a total of 12 people on the board and the chairman will be from business. But there remain questions over whether to classify the educational establishment and the charity sector as ‘business’.

SEMLEP steering committee member and former Milton Keynes MP Brian White, representing the Federation of Small Businesses, urged the private sector to get involved in the process.

He said: “This is going to be a fast-moving process and it is important that your feedback drives it, rather than that of local authorities.”

Mr White said SEMLEP would be able to fight for £1.6 billion of public money but only had one month to put together a winning bid.

It is thought that the government will be predisposed to spend much of its resources on encouraging private sector growth in the north of the country.

Delegates were encouraged to put forward their ideas for making it easier for business to thrive in Milton Keynes.

Among the ideas put forward were:

> Making it easier for people to park, rather than imposing a rule of one space for every three employees.

> Improving the buses and public transport network.

> Cutting red tape

> Investing to raise the profile of the city.

> Making the planning process quicker.

> Encouraging the council to be more ‘decisive’

> Making the environment more attractive.

> Giving financial incentives.