Guest Blog: How the UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum can Support the Economic Recovery

By Keith Griffiths, managing director of Built Environment Networking

Next May Leeds will be welcoming thousands of visitors from across the world for three days of discussion, debate and networking as part of the first ever UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF).

I am confident that by next year the UK’s vaccine programme will mean the world is very different to the one we see today, with the first stage of the COVID pandemic increasingly a memory rather than something we live on a daily basis.

I use the term ‘first stage’ very deliberately, though. Despite the fact that I write this just after the Prime Minister announced a one-month delay to the lifting of final coronavirus restrictions, I remain relatively optimistic that the tremendous successes of the vaccine programme means we are past the worst of the pandemic. That is both a relief, but also causes me to increasingly ask the next big question: What happens next?

To offer a reminder, as it is easy to forget what is ahead of us, by some measures the recession we faced in quarters two and three of 2020 was the largest since the Great Frost of 1709, with a loss of economic output in 2020 almost three times as great as what the UK suffered in the 2008 recession. With the coming wind-down of Government schemes like furlough, ensuring a strong economic recovery as we move back towards a more normal balance between public and private sector spending has to be a top priority for everyone in the business world.

It is my belief, though, that the economic recovery must be about much more than just getting back to how things were in February 2020. Don’t get me wrong, as a business owner I’m happy whenever I see the green shoots of economic recovery. But when it comes to charting our way towards a strong, well-performing economy, I believe it is incumbent upon us all to ensure that the next years aren’t just ones of recovery, but ones where everyone and everywhere can thrive. Be it in diversity, economic inclusivity or the environment, the decisions people make in the months ahead could set the UK’s course for a generation.

UKREiiF offers the platform for those decisions to be made. I am thrilled that the UKREiiF Advisory Group is Chaired by former Head of the UK Civil Service Lord Kerslake – a vote of confidence in the importance of what we are trying to achieve – and that major public and private sector organisations like Invest Newcastle, Manchester City Council, Lendlease and MEPC are already onboard.

I hear the Government talk on an almost daily basis about Building Back Better and the Levelling Up Agenda, and that is an ambition I entirely applaud. For me, Building Back Better and Levelling Up can be all about ensuring places like Leeds, where we are hosting the first annual UKREiiF event, do even better than they were already doing before COVID hit.

A more balanced economy, where London and the South East continue to soar but our Great Northern Towns and Cities, alongside every nation and region of the UK, can play their fullest role in delivering jobs, growth and economic success, is my ambition, and one which I am confident UKREiiF will support the delivery of.

The 2020s might have started in the most appalling way, but with a strong public sector working hand-in-hand with a vibrant and dynamic private sector, the 2020s can become a decade of growth and improvement across every region in the UK. UKREiiF can help deliver that decade of growth, ensuring the 2020s aren’t just about health and economic recovery, but about building a more inclusive, diverse and fair economy. I hope to see many of you get involved.