‘Levelling up is back on the agenda’


The president of ADEPT has said that while it appears that levelling up is back on the agenda for the Sunak administration, climate must not come off the agenda, ‘whatever else is going on’.

Mark Kemp spoke exclusively to Transport Network ahead of the council directors organisation’s Autumn Conference in Leeds later this month, which has the strapline ‘Place Leadership in a Perfect Storm’. Its three themes are ‘people, place and planet’, reflecting his priorities during his year as ADEPT president.

He said: ‘When we started the presidential year, we weren’t quite in the situation we are in now and the perfect storm comes out in reality from the last few months.

‘As I said in my inaugural speech, three is a good number. But we now clearly have the perfect storm as well.’

Regarding the theme of ‘people’, he explained: ‘When I sat down and thought about what are our priorities, as a profession, one of the things that stuck me was that the world was changing really, really fast and equally there is a challenge in recruiting people.

‘For us there’s a challenge about getting the right people, not only to fill the holes now, because we need people to do things now, equipped with the skills, with what we need on five or 10 years’ time.

‘So the people angle is about addressing the short-term gaps but probably as importantly, understanding what we think we need in five or 10 years’ time and how we can work with academia et cetera.’

The concept of ‘place’ covers the broad range of services within the remit of ADEPT members. Mr Kemp told Transport Network: ‘What we’ve always recognised is that where you live, the environment you live in, has a significant impact on your wellbeing. I wanted to make sure that was fully recognised – the importance of what we do.

‘We’re doing some work at the moment, with our sister organisations for public health, and adult social care and children’s services to look at the 12 missions that came out of levelling up and to understand how we are all able to contribute to those 12 missions.’

He added: ‘One assumes levelling up is back on the agenda, but even if it isn’t, the 12 missions are the things you couldn’t really argue with, in their broadest sense, so I think that contribution that place directors and the services that we run make to all of our lives are recognised in that one.’

Mr Kemp described the last of the three alliterative themes, ‘planet’ as being ‘what it says on the tin really’.

He told Transport Network: ‘Climate mustn’t come off the agenda, whatever else is going on, we have climate targets we have to meet. Now, whether that be 2050 target that government have set, or whether it’s the net zero 2030 targets in our own activity that many, many local authorities have set, it’s an absolutely vital part of what we’re doing and we need to make sure that we as place directors are driving that as best we can.

‘There are so many areas where we interface with that, both in terms of carbon reduction, but also adaptation, how we make sure that what we’re building is fit for purpose, how we make sure that what’s being retrofitted is fit for purpose.

The majority of what’s going to exist in 2050 already exists, so adaptation is really, really important.’

The ADEPT Autumn Conference will take place on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 November at the Hilton Hotel, Leeds.

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