One senior industry figure made it clear this week that he will serve on the Government’s Advisory Group on Competitiveness only on condition that it is more than a talking shop.
And quite right too. The DTI’s Regional Competitiveness Indicators show why the group has a potentially vital role to play and will give it and the Government food for thought.
The figures show that, while labour productivity has in general risen across the country since 1991, differences between the regions remain entrenched. Significantly, this mirrors the trend nationally: productivity is rising, but the UK is failing to narrow the gap with its G7 and EU competitors.
Though the regional differences may be explained by industrial specialisation in different parts of the country, it seems reasonable to suppose that there may also be common factors underlying the differences between the regions and between the UK and other nations, and that addressing one would also improve the other.
The proposed Regional Development Agencies must be given an effective remit to tackle the causes of this imbalance. Identifying the causes should be a priority for the Advisory Group on Competitiveness.