The year ahead: Lewis Stringer, Senior Manager, UK Network Team – East & South-East Midlands, British Business Bank

Each year Lincolnshire Today Magazine invites a select panel of the region’s business leaders to offer up their predictions for the year ahead. It has become something of a tradition, given that we’ve been doing this now for over 30 years. And, while none of us possess a crystal ball, it is uncanny how accurate some of these forecasts have been.

Here we catch up with Lewis Stringer, Senior Manager, UK Network Team – East & South-East Midlands, at British Business Bank:

Having recently transferred into the Bank’s newly established UK Network Team, my role at the British Business Bank now has an extended remit.

The UK Network Team will help enhance business finance ecosystems across the UK so smaller businesses, wherever they are, can grow and prosper. The Team will also help the Bank develop a deeper understanding of small business finance markets in all parts of the UK so that, ultimately, the Bank can improve its support to smaller businesses everywhere.

This enhanced role will build on the early success of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund in the East Midlands into 2019 and beyond.

Addressing the disparities that exist between the East Midlands and the rest of the UK is my key message for 2019.

Unfortunately, regional disparities are not limited to access to finance. Whilst employment growth is forecast to match the UK as a whole, the East Midlands is expected to be among the UK’s weaker regions for productivity growth over the next three years.

Productivity growth will be as important as employment growth in 2019. A significant shift in the labour market is likely due to a slowing economy, expected reduction in immigration and technological change.

There is no doubt that the East Midlands saw a significant slowdown in both economic growth and investment activity in 2018. My concern is that the East Midlands is losing out to other regions, particularly those that have secured devolved powers from central government.

The region’s weaker performance just strengthens the case for driving deeper geographic rebalancing to maximise the undoubted potential of the East Midlands. This is already being recognised by the Bank.

The region’s core cities – Derby, Leicester and Nottingham – are likely to continue to be outperformed by the UK’s larger cities. These core cites need to step-up as key economic drivers for the East Midlands.

As a smaller region, the East Midlands will be more vulnerable to inevitable economic downturns in 2019. Therefore, it is critical that business and civic leaders start to develop actions now that will to help drive greater economic activity across the region.