We like to bring you the opinions, insights and never-before-known facts about leaders from across our region. This month we put LEP Director Katie Trout in the hotseat…
1. What have been the big successes of the GBSLEP?
The partnership working that the LEP has helped to engender. We wouldn’t have achieved any of our successes without strong collaboration across the private, public and academic sectors. It’s this joint working that underpins the confidence Government has in us as a region.
Another is that we have set a strategy that has strong buy-in across all sectors. There was no shortage of excellent strategies in the past but they often duplicated each other or said different things. Having one consistent sector-based strategy has given us direction and focus.
There is much more to do but with partnership working and a clear strategy, we are well placed to meet all our aims.
2. The region’s political landscape is changing fast. What’s your view on the impact the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Midlands Engine could have?
The creation of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) presents a fantastic opportunity to drive economic growth further and faster and to undertake real public service reform across the three LEP areas of the Black Country, GBS and Coventry & Warwickshire. Crucially, the WMCA as a legal body with decision making powers granted by parliament, can have further powers and funding devolved from Whitehall to the local area.
The pace of progress in forming the CA has been phenomenal. In the space of a year, the CA has been set up, an ambitious Strategic Economic Plan published and the largest single devolution deal agreed with Government.
3. What are the big challenges facing Greater Birmingham and Solihull in the next decade?
Our first challenge is to drive forward the local economy through a period of intense political uncertainty following Brexit. We must all continue to work together to deliver our plans for growth and maintain confidence levels.
Skills remain a significant challenge. There is a disconnect between the skills that our young people have and the jobs that are available in our local economy. If we don’t address these issues, we will not achieve the positive impact on peoples’ lives nor the long-term, sustainable growth that we need. However, there is no shortage of individuals and organisations keen to deliver the transformational change we need; from schools, colleges and universities to the wider business community. It’s about coming together to develop a new model of working.
4. What challenges does the LEP in particular face?
Capacity. A small executive supports the LEP Board to deliver its Strategy for Growth, backed by numerous partners who do a fantastic job, many of them from local authorities. Councils face the prospect of budget reductions over the coming years, and this could impact us. We will need to look at new ways of resourcing activity; working even more closely in partnership and through structures set up by the WMCA.\
5. What made you move to Birmingham?
I moved to the West Midlands for work and then to the city after spending three years living in Worcester. I love the place and feel that Birmingham is now my adopted home. I think I’m also sounding more Brummie than Surrey now!
6. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a lawyer having been inspired by watching lots of episodes of Perry Mason.
7. What was your first job?
My first ever job was working in a bakery in a small village in Surrey on a Saturday morning. It was a great place to work, not least because I got to take home as much cake and bread as I could carry at the end of my shift. My parents loved it!
My first full time job was working at Malvern Hills District Council. It was a brilliant introduction to working in a local authority. Due to the small size of the council, I got involved in so many different things.
8. What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?
I was told when studying for my history degree to ‘assume nothing and question everything’. It has stood me in good stead in my career.
9. Favourite restaurant in Birmingham?
I love places like Sushi Passion, Pickled Piglet and Cherry Reds in the city centre. There are also some great curry houses like Ashas and Itihaas, but you can’t beat the Balti Triangle for taste and value. Carters of Moseley is also a real favourite for a special treat.
10. Favourite TV box set?
I am currently watching House of Cards and I am hooked. I also still can’t get over Making a Murderer, which I watched a few months ago.