The Centre for the New Midlands held its Summer Reception in Coventry, as part of its ‘Reimagining the Region’ programme. Chief Executive of Coventry City Council Professor Martin Reeves offered a valuable insight into the future of the city at the event hosted by CWR radio presenter Phil Upton.
The Centre for the New Midlands is an independent, not-for-profit think-tank focussed on the development and dissemination of new ideas to enrich the lives of the region’s citizens and to enhance political discourse across the Midlands.
The evening opened with a drinks reception for the more than 50 invited guests, all representing member organisations of the Reimagining the Region network. The network stands currently at around 60 organisations ranging in size from start-ups to some of the region’s largest employers.
Invaluable insight and tough questions
Chris Smith, Managing Director of Centre for the New Midlands, commented: “This was an event not only for those interested in the future of Coventry, but for those important to the future of Coventry and indeed the regions as a whole.
“Our aim as an organisation is to bring people together in a collaborative and supportive environment to hear directly from leaders of the calibre of Professor Martin Reeves, who are shaping the future of our cities and our region.
“This event followed on from the exciting development of Air-One opening in the city to highlight one potential future of travel, with its demonstration of a ‘vertiport’, designed for electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.
“To some a flight of fancy, but to me a great demonstration of what makes this a great region for entrepreneurs and the technological advancements they hope to get off the ground; quite literally in the case of Air-One – Martin predicted Coventry will be piloting to other cities within a decade.
“We encourage people to think the unthinkable and to stretch the envelope of what is possible for the region. Our ambition as an organisation is to bring together people to debate, shape and create a ‘better’ region and events like this are central to our ambitions.
“We recognise the future will see more devolved responsibility to the regions and it’s critical we have the right questions being asked of the people who can deliver the solutions that will enrich the lives of every citizen.”
A broad range of topics discussed
Topics touched on by Professor Reeves and Phil Upton included the need for housing reform to ensure suitable homes were developed in the locations people work, in an effort to undo decades of bad policy from central government, regardless of the party in control.
Coventry is benefitting from a long-term regeneration project that mirrors the efforts of the region’s other major cities, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, but recognises the need to make more innovative use of cities to balance the needs of their citizens, with those of business.
There was a lively discussion involving the audience, with many asking the important questions for which the events are organised. Many in the audience expressed the opinion that top-down government and a trickle-down economy has been shown to be deficient and it’s time for change, driven by those who can implement the required changes.
The conversation turned to inequalities across the region and what the Government’s Levelling Up agenda was attempting to address; whether it was to level up regions such as the West Midlands, cities such as Coventry in which the difference in male life expectancy can vary by ten years from one end of the route to the other.
There were also broader questions about how regions are financed; the future of council tax and business rates and appreciation expressed for politicians, both local and national, who receive so much unwarranted personal abuse across social media and beyond.
What’s next for the Centre for the New Midlands?
Our next event is an online panel discussion on Tuesday 13 Sept – Levelling Up: Shared Challenges for UK Cities. We are partnering with Centre for London and CLES (National organisation for local Economies) to engage city leaders from across the UK, who will hope to answer tricky questions, such as: What is the role of our urban areas in reducing geographic inequality? How should they relate to the places around them? And what can they learn from each other. Click here to register and be part of the future of the region.
If you would like more details about how to join the Reimagining the Region network, please click here to see what we have to offer and play an active role in the region’s ‘big’ conversations and help set the agenda.