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‘This is not the time to sit back and react’

Strategy director predicts three more years in the doldrums but says a clear view of the future is important


by ANDREW GIBBS e: news@businessmk.co.uk

ECONOMIC recovery to pre-pandemic levels may not happen in Milton Keynes until 2024, says the council’s director of strategy Geoff Snelson.

Speaking to a group of business leaders, he described projections of recovery by late 2022 as “optimistic”.

Geoff Snelson

Mr Snelson gave an overview of Milton Keynes council’s £3 million economic recovery plan for the city, which is supported by the largest ever economic financial package from the council.

Just as in the 2008 financial crisis, rising employment levels are generally expected to fall just behind GDP recovery, he said.

Mr Snelson provided context on the recovery programme which would see greater provision for Milton Keynes College to deliver education and training support to people out of the labour market as a result of Covid-19. 

In a bid to establish sustainable and resilient networks for the longevity of the city, the recovery resources set out by the council will also see greater funding to support organisations, along with provision for retailers, creative sectors, and local employers, he told an online forum hosted by Milton Keynes Business Leaders Partnership.  

Ultimately the recovery framework will see Milton Keynes transition into a greener economy, prioritising inclusive growth while reducing poverty and inequality. 

With the framework split over immediate and long-term phases, Mr Snelson was keen to emphasis the latter. The council’s economic recovery response to Covid-19 remains a priority but future economic development is still moving ahead with the final version of the MK Futures 2050 Commission strategy due to be delivered to cabinet in mid-December. 

Mr Snelson said: “We could question whether this is the time to make future projections but, at times of uncertainty, it is even more important to have a clear view of the future. This is not the time to sit back and react.”

He spoke of the Oxford to Cambridge Arc prospectus delivered to the government that called for major long-term investment in growth along the length of the corridor.

“Milton Keynes is a key project within the Arc which is being discussed in Downing Street,” he told the forum. “The strength of our AI development reinforces us as a place of technology and data knowledge. 

“While Oxford and Cambridge are renowned for a great sense of knowledge, Milton Keynes is becoming widely recognised as the place which takes up these ideas and creates innovative solutions. We are in an encouraging position.” 

Mr Snelson also discussed the £10 million, ‘full fat’ 5G network roll-out in two thirds of the city’s urban areas and the installation of seven masts,  making Milton Keynes the UK’s most advanced trial network.

“Our reputation for being a test bed for innovationis a vital part of our offering in attracting high tech and data businesses into the city as inward investments,” he said. 

MKBLP members and discussed the ongoing commitment to education and training in a bid to nurture home-grown talent and improve skills.

Mr Snelson went on to facilitate discussions around equality and diversity within employment, how the council is trying to drive footfall in the city centre and its pledge to creating a greener economy in a bid to make the city carbon neutral by 2030.

Providing a national context, Mr Snelson passed on to the group intelligence from Westminster, which echoed the sentiments of the council’s recovery framework: level up, Covid recovery and green growth.