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Lincolnshire County Council’s portfolio holder for the economy gives his key predictions for 2024

As Lincolnshire steps into 2024, the landscape is set for a year of significant transformation and challenges

The Local Democracy Reporter scheme asked Lincolnshire County Council’s portfolio holder for the economy and environment, Coun Colin Davie (Con – Ingoldmells Rural), for his insights and predictions for the upcoming year, touching on various aspects of the county’s economic and social fabric.

Con Davie’s predictions for 2024 combine caution with optimism, highlighting Lincolnshire’s challenges and opportunities.

Councillor Colin Davie
Councillor Colin Davie

“It’s been a tough old year for a lot of people; it remains tough, and it’s going to continue to be tough,” he said.

From persistent challenges in the business sector to the evolving political climate in Europe, Coun Davie paints a picture of politics at several crossroads.

His perspective not only highlights potential hurdles but also sheds light on opportunities for growth and development in Lincolnshire.

This feature delves into five key 2024 predictions from Coun Davie.”

1. Persistent business challenges: Cash flow and late payments

In 2024, Lincolnshire’s business landscape is expected to continue grappling with significant cash flow challenges and the issue of late payments.

This situation, as Coun Davie points out, creates a bottleneck in the economy, preventing money from circulating effectively.

These financial hurdles are not just a concern for individual businesses but also pose a risk to the wider economic health of the region.

Davie underscores the severity of this issue, stating: “It’s been a very difficult trading year for businesses.

“Whether businesses are big or small, there is a massive issue with cash flow.”

He said businesses’ struggle with cash flow and late payments, a situation choking the economy and hindering investment.

“The economy can’t invest or make decisions for the future if there’s no certainty or cash flow dries up,” he said.

Coun Davie calls for a reduction in taxation and regulation, suggesting these measures overburden the UK economy.

“The UK is overtaxed, overregulated and overburdened on business, and the government needs to make some very drastic changes in my view if they’re going to avoid stagnation in our economy.”

2. Economic prospects in Lincolnshire

Despite the economic challenges that loom on the horizon, Coun Davie remains optimistic about Lincolnshire’s potential as an investment hub.

“Businesses, while saying they have challenges with cash flow, are optimistic about the future in Lincolnshire,” said the councillor.

“Trying to weigh up why they’re very pessimistic on one hand and optimistic on the other is an interesting challenge.”

He cited lower living costs and a strong workforce as key attractors for business growth.

Coun Davie’s optimism is captured in his words: “I think there’s a lot to be optimistic about.

“Lincolnshire and Greater Lincolnshire are great places to be, and we’re seeing that with the inward investment that’s coming forward, the number of inquiries that we’re dealing with, and the fact that people want to be here around key sectors such as agri-food, defence, engineering, and the green sector.”

3. Skills that give people the best opportunities for 2024

The upcoming year will also underscore the importance of fostering local employment opportunities and skill development.

Coun Davie highlighted Lincolnshire’s role in the UK Food Valley, attracting global agri-food sector investments and reducing carbon emissions.

He advocates for a focus on equipping the local population with the skills necessary to meet the demands of the evolving job market.

Coun Davie stressed the need for skills development in automation, robotics, engineering, and trades, urging that residents explore these sectors, supported by local educational institutions.

He urged job seekers to get advice from schools and local authorities.

“Ultimately, we’ve got a growing population – a growing ageing population – we need more plumbers, electricians, and tradespeople,” he added.

“These are great opportunities for people to be self-employed, be their own boss, and they can make very good money out of it,” he said.

“There will be a lot of global shocks going on in 2024, and we need to focus on the strengths that we have in our workforce, our people, and our place to ensure investment flows into those areas.

“I’m somebody whose glass is always half-full, not half-empty, so 2024 is half-full with optimism that we’ll get it topped up during the course of the year.”

Coun Davie aims to boost Lincolnshire’s profile in creative industries, especially in film and TV, recognizing the area’s young talent and potential for investment.

4. Political instability in the European Union and further afield

The coming year may witness increased challenges arising from the political landscape, both domestically and internationally.

“2024 is a big election year, not just for our country but also for Europe and America, and in election years there’s always uncertainty until the vote is over,” said Coun Davie.

“But there are some quite clearly worrying trends in relation to Europe.”

Davie predicts EU instability due to rising right-wing parties, citing elections like Geert Wilders’ victory in the Netherlands.

This change, he believes, could lead to a reevaluation of key issues such as immigration policy across Europe.

He reflects on this concern: “It is the right-wing parties that are leading that discussion, so I suspect there will be some instability in the EU until those elections are over, and a new parliament is elected that can physically move forward.”

The upcoming American elections also loom large, with potential economic repercussions globally.

“Despite all the attempts by the establishment to put Donald Trump off the ballot and keep him out of the elections, I suspect there will be an election between Donald and a Democratic challenger,” he said.

“America has very, very large economic challenges, much greater than ours… so there’s going to have to be an economic correction in the US, and so whoever wins that election is going to be pretty unpopular because they’ll have to deliver that.”

Davie views a 2024 UK election as an opportunity to “refresh government” and address housing and infrastructure.

“We keep talking about house building and all these issues, but we don’t seem to be arriving at the solutions we need,” said Coun Davie.

“We still have too many young people unable to rent, unable to find a home, living at home with their parents in their 30s – that can’t be right. We need to get our economy sorted and move to unburden it.”

As a Conservative, Coun Davie stresses the distinction between local and national politics.

“The public waste of money around Covid-19 and around big projects in all infrastructure is a national disgrace, quite honestly,” he said.

“The local government doesn’t make these kinds of mistakes, and national government shouldn’t get away with it.”

Reflecting on the local elections’ outcome, with Conservatives losing many seats, losing control in three authorities and scraping by in some others, Coun Davie noted a voter-government disconnect.

He stressed the importance of local elections in shaping local government and services and called on people not to absent themselves from voting locally in order to send messages to the national government.

“There were a lot of Conservative voters who didn’t vote because they wanted to send a message to the government.

“We need to be very careful because you can end up losing good local government and local services to make a point and put in people who are inexperienced, which can cause further problems,” he warned.

“I’m happy to make the case locally, but government needs to get its house in order,” he said.

Coun Davie focused on advocating the devolution deal rather than commenting on Rishi Sunak’s future as Prime Minister.

However, he added: “I don’t think London generally and the civil service in Westminster, who advise government, understand very much about places like Lincolnshire – it’s for local politicians to make the case about why things should happen in our place.”

Coun Davie believes “baked in” ongoing global conflicts, like those in Ukraine and Israel/Gaza, will persist.

However, he warned that extreme weather events such as the recent Storm Babett and geographical incidents such as volcanic eruptions would also always be costly, leading to rises in insurance and the cost of goods and services.

5. Focus on renewable energy and agriculture

2024 is expected to see a heightened focus on balancing renewable energy developments with the preservation of agricultural land.

Addressing food production and renewable energy, Councillor Davie underscored the importance of prioritizing agricultural land for food over other uses.

The councillor highlighted local food production’s role in reducing carbon emissions.

He repeated concerns over the impact of solar farms on prime agricultural land, advocating for the protection of this resource.

Lincolnshire County Council recently approved a policy to reject any solar development on the top three grades of agricultural land (1, 2, and 3a) and look closely at the next grading (3b).

He shares: “We are under attack from solar, and we’re very clear we’re not going to tolerate it on our best quality agricultural land.”

The council advocates for offshore grid support or seabed cables for wind farm infrastructures like the Hornsea 3 farm.

“We shouldn’t wreck landscapes with giant pylons, which could easily be dealt with offshore, and wherever we need to have any onshore infrastructure… the cables need to be buried underground, so it doesn’t impact our tourism industry or our view that people have,” he said.

“Lincolnshire is a place of big skies and wide open spaces; it’s an unnecessary and quite honestly, costly infrastructure project that won’t deliver anything for the people in Lincolnshire.”

Coun Davie supports exploring renewable energy alternatives like hydrogen and nuclear fusion in nearby Nottinghamshire.

“That’s where we can meet the answers of 2050 and where we need to invest if we’re going to meet our [climate] targets,” he said.

What do you think 2024 will bring? Share your views in the comments.

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