Improving Blackburn with Darwen by Skill and Hard Work

prosperity blog

On Tuesday 18th November, PM+M Corporate Services Partner David Gorton attended A Plan for Prosperity held at Accrol, which laid down Blackburn with Darwen’s plan for the next six years. With 27 priorities identified in total, over 100 attendees addressed issues including infrastructure and housing, business investment and innovation, employability, quality of life and image and marketing. Here’s what David had to say about the event:

“It was great to see a rational, achievable plan for improving Blackburn.

A legal requirement of auditors is being professionally sceptical and this comes very easily to me.  I am sceptical of bureaucracy (whether large corporate, central government or local government), I am sceptical of anyone self-important and I am particularly sceptical of pompous plans where bureaucracy combines with self-importance to generate bland nonsense.

I was sceptical of the launch of the Plan for Prosperity, an event co-hosted by the Blackburn with Darwen Local Strategic Partnership, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and the Hive business network.

Confounding my scepticism, it was an event produced by a lot of skill and hard work. It ran on time, it included focused and interesting business presentations and it briefly and impressively explained the background to and the key features of a competent plan for the borough’s future.

The plan builds on the great businesses founded in the borough and targets creating more of these to push through wider improvements.  Real priorities were identified and pushed by presenters in ways which made good sense and struck a chord across the diverse audience.

Putting improving the image of Blackburn as a key priority is a welcome acceptance of reality, as is the need to provide housing of a type which people at all levels of society want to live in.  There were also realistic targets for increasing commercial property availability, improving transport and driving up the number of jobs created in the borough.

Inevitably, in parts the plan was a bit “motherhood and apple pie” – priorities such as “longer life expectancy”, “more residents in work” and “more people living and working in the borough” are bland.  It’s hard to see how soft but important matters can be targeted much better.

The real issue noted during presentations (and afterwards) is the challenge of linking up education and employment – governments for years treated exam qualifications as equivalent to being fit for employment, despite the message from business of all sizes is that this becomes less true every year. I think that the message from schools is that the central focus on results and league tables makes flexing school activities for local employment needs really difficult.

It was striking that of the 10 high schools in the borough, only 1 head teacher attended the presentation – I think the employability part of the plan may be the most challenging!”

Following the event, Blackburn with Darwen Council and HIVE have launched the 2014 Business Survey. How has 2014 been for you as a business in Blackburn with Darwen? What does 2015 hold? Please take a few minutes to complete the survey and have your say: