Cumbria should consider bidding to become the UK Capital of Culture, says the new chairman of the Institute of Directors in the county.
Consultant Chris Ward argues that Cumbria needs to boost its profile across the UK if it is attract people to live and work here, and is calling for the county to come together to promote itself.
Speaking to in-Cumbria as part of the weekly ‘10 minutes with….’ series, Mr Ward said that the county needs ambitious ideas. Why not apply to become the UK Capital of Culture after seeing the successes made in Liverpool and Glasgow?
Boosting Cumbria’s culture
“We need to work to improve our cultural offering across Cumbria, because we need people moving to the area for work. It’s one thing to have a great remuneration package but people will always ask “What’s in it for my spouse and family?”
“If we’re to attract the best talent from urban areas such as Manchester, Birmingham and London, these people are used to having any number of amenities, events and culture on their doorstep that we just don’t have (or don’t properly exploit) in Cumbria.
“A bid to become UK Capital of Culture might provide the vision needed to focus minds, and draw synergies from our existing cultural base which would provide the backdrop for Cumbria to enhance its offering.
“For such a bid to succeed, we’d need the politicians, the LEP, the general public, businesses, and entertainment organisations to pull together, pool some of their own funds, and encourage new investment in the county.”
Why agility is as important as productivity
“The recent productivity figures published by the ONS showed that, in the last quarter of 2015, there was a drop in productivity, so wages were rising faster than output. If you look purely at the numbers, that is a bit disconcerting but, although it’s an important indicator, productivity is just one measure of capability.
“If we focus on this exclusively, we lose sight of other capability measures like agility – the ability to change and adapt to customer’s changing requirements. There’s little point being the most-efficient producer of goods or services that nobody wants.
“At any stage in the economic cycle, it’s wise to look at other measures besides productivity to determine how business in the county is performing.”
MPs criticise companies cutting benefits for National Living Wage
“I understand that MPs speaking in the House of Commons are often addressing a particular audience in their constituencies. But it’s all too easy to stand up and criticise business for not implementing social programmes in the spirit the politicians intended.
“Most companies will absorb these additional pressures with a slight increase in prices, a dip in profits, an increase in productivity, or a combination of all three, and then they’ll get on with their business.
“In a right-thinking world, wages wouldn’t be determined by outside forces - but we are where we are, and just as we condemn businesses that operate outside the law, we implore our politicians to act responsibly when imposing costs on companies.
“We need to be moving forward together as an economy and as a society, and we’d be far more successful if it was done through dialogue and understanding, rather than imposition and vilification.”
The Northern Powerhouse
“One of the things we want to promote, through the Institute of Directors in Cumbria and the North West, is the Northern Powerhouse.
“The Northern Powerhouse began as a political construct and was a key part of conversations in the run up to the General Election which may have been part of the reason why the Conservatives ended up in Government.
“But since then it looks to have become a transport and infrastructure programme which I don’t think was the original intention, we want the North to be the engine of growth for the country and not just somewhere in need of more infrastructure.
“We need management of, and investment in, science, technology and energy clusters to help make the right advancements.”
So, who is Chris Ward?
Chris hails from Kendal where he grew up, left town after college, and returned after 20 years working elsewhere in the UK and overseas.
He holds an MBA from Henley Management College and has more than 30 years of international experience working in various senior operations management roles for, and with, multi-national organisations including Fortune 500 and FT-SE 100 companies.
In 2012, he set up an independent company that helps companies to improve their performance by strengthening their operational, management, and administrative processes.
“I’ve been involved in a vast and diverse array of industries across the globe from aircraft engines to boot polish, helping companies to improve customer value, develop employees, improve productivity and quality, and record significant increases in turnover and profitability.
“I’m current chairman of the Institute of Directors in Cumbria, and take a special interest in promoting the manufacturing sector in the north west of England.”