To receive an update from David Cook (Partnership Chairman), Councillor Brunel-Walker (Executive Member for Economic Development and Regeneration) and Victor Nicholls (Assistant Chief Executive), in respect of the work of the Economic and Skills Development Partnership.
The Commission received an update from David Cook, Economic and Skills Development Partnership (ESDP) Chairman and Victor Nicholls, Assistant Chief Executive, in respect of the work of the ESDP.
David congratulated Bracknell Forest for being number three in the Country for Technology Employment behind Manchester and Reading and praised Bracknell Forest Council for bringing new ideas on board and being a delight to work with.
David informed the Commission that he had been the Chairman of the ESDP for six years and that membership of the ESDP had become much stronger with more businesses represented and involved. These included Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), 3M, Hitachi, The Knowledge Academy and Simon Fryer (who was a member of the Sub Committee). The ESDP also had a very strong working relationship with the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and had worked very closely with Campbell Christie since he had become the director in January 2016. Bracknell Forest was the only Borough out of the six in Berkshire that had a Business Community Forum. The LEP were trying to encourage the other Authorities in Berkshire to follow suit. The ESDP also had a strong dialogue and a similar agenda with Bracknell Forest Council which enabled work to not be duplicated. He envisaged the ESDP becoming more business-led, with the Council as a partner organisation.
David updated the Commission on some of the key developments within the Borough.
There had been concerns raised by companies in the Borough about the reduction of resources and the lack of available skills and talent within the area to match the businesses needs, especially in regards to the “young bright” executives and future leaders. Significant skill gaps had been identified predominantly in the ICT, life science and construction sectors. Careers events and the Elevate programme had been successfully working closely with schools, in particular 6th Forms, to introduce students to business techniques, improve CV writing and develop skills to enable students to “stand out from the crowd”.
There was a Business Improvement District (BID) event planned for November 2016 which would be aimed at all businesses within the western and southern industrial areas to generate interest and discuss the concept of a BID. The former director of Reds had been brought on board to divulge his expertise and knowledge in order to develop the project and BID infrastructure.
The Borough had achieved 96.2% of premises covered with superfast broadband.
The Town Centre regeneration was a very important asset for businesses within Bracknell as it would enable socialising and networking opportunities outside of the workplace which had been identified currently as a missing link within Bracknell Town Centre.
Over the past eighteen months and going forward, the ESDP would be raising their concerns with housing developers about the lack of affordable housing for professionals to purchase within the Borough. This was becoming increasingly difficult. As many companies had found that the lack of affordable housing was an important factor that many professionals were taking into consideration when applying for jobs.
In response to Members’ questions the following points were made:
The Chairman thanked David for his interesting report which was both helpful and refreshing and would hopefully give the Authority ideas to think outside of the silos. The Commission would like to meet David again at a future date.
Victor Nicholls also thanked David for his leadership of the ESDP and emphasised that Bracknell Forest benefitted from being the only Berkshire Authority with a business partnership.