Blog: Economic recovery, an enormous challenge

During the last few weeks there has been a significant easing of the lockdown caused by the pandemic, which is undoubtedly good news. Whilst the number of recorded new cases has seen a small increase, the levels of fatality have slowed to a trickle – more good news.
We all hope there will not be a second surge of infection and, if there is, it is reasonable to expect there may be a few localised lockdowns as determined by the local outbreak board of which I am a member. Personally I believe a major national lockdown we have just experienced could be catastrophic and must be avoided if at all possible.
So thoughts must turn to the economic recovery and everything possible must be done by all of us to deliver that growth our county desperately needs. I continue to be optimistic that Suffolk business and the whole community will rise to this challenge head on and make a success of it.
The national data does unfortunately make some grim reading. In the second quarter GDP shrank by an alarming 20.4 per cent and overall unemployment increased by nearly three quarters of a million people. Sadly, many businesses have closed in spite of the best efforts of government and the largesse of the taxpayer.
This assistance cannot go on forever as the country would risk becoming bankrupt and the collective suffering would be unthinkable. For me the best way forward is through economic growth which will be spearheaded by the private sector.
It is well documented that as Police and Crime Commissioner I’ve seen that close link between deprivation and unemployment with higher levels of crime. That’s why I want to assure you that the Constabulary does stand ready to tackle business crime, bringing offenders to justice and has a relentless focus on apprehending criminal gangs who do so much damage to our county’s homes and businesses.
For example, the significant increases in policing council tax during the last three years has made a huge impact – the Sentinel teams established last year that target high end criminality have now made over 500 arrests. This vigorous policing tactic improves the reputation of Suffolk as a great place to live, work and invest in.
The public sector must do more to support Suffolk and UK business. When awarding contracts in our collective £1.8 billion spend on goods and services, the procurement process must give greater priority to the social value implications. It is time we did much more to help ourselves. I am certainly doing what I can to help. For example, the Mildenhall Hub construction programme is costing around £40 million and was won by a Suffolk based firm who are doing what they can to help the younger generation. Because social value was taken seriously the project employs ten Suffolk based apprenticeships.
Other options include bringing forwards a co-ordinated approach to our capital expenditure programmes – this could help boost economic demand and create more local employment. I support the creation of more enterprise zones and Free Ports, if that is what the business community wants. I’m convinced economic growth reduce overall demand on the police which is why I will do what I can to support business growth in Suffolk.
Delivering economic recovery is an enormous challenge, but I firmly believe Suffolk’s success will be built by the business sector which our future depends on. So let’s get going together.

Published in the EADT ‘s Suffolk Business Magazine September 2020