Restart, Recover, Renewal – What’s next for Yorkshire’s economy?

18th May 2020
Hannah Wade
Associate Partner

Restart, Recover, Renewal – What’s next for Yorkshire’s economy?

Berwick Partners and Odgers Berndtson recently led an online forum for Yorkshire business leaders from across public, private and third sectors. Thank you to those who joined us. With much anticipation around what the then impending Government announcements might be, the conclusion to this event round up may be different to the conversation! The event’s theme was ‘What’s Next for Yorkshire?’ How will Yorkshire ‘Restart, Recover, Renew’ itself to pinch Calderdale Council’s strap line or ‘Build it Back Better’ post COVID-19? Whilst the discussion could have been quite depressing, organisational planning teams are seeing a positive outcome somewhere in the future – or at least they are trying to.

The discussion centred upon the topic of how people will get moving again, professionally or socially, and what impact this will have on the regional economy. Getting people back to work in a safe, measured and productive way is key to our region coming out of the pandemic successfully. Managing the person versus the workplace views will be a challenge. It was felt that it would be achievable through well thought out guidance or charters to give commuters confidence about travelling back to work. Further, employers would need to continue to embrace flexible working, in order to manage the load placed upon public transport, or city centre car parks.

Businesses, ours included, have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly and successfully we have all adapted to working from home. The question is whether this more flexible approach to where and when we work will become the norm? If companies require less city centre space, what does that mean for office developments?

Some industries have not stopped working. Highways and schools’ projects have been ongoing throughout lockdown. Leeds City Council currently have 34 projects which paused briefly to allow contractors to review their operations, but were soon back on site with a plan B. The manufacturing sector is making progress through the creation of working environments with enhanced safety and social distancing. However, those sector industries that rely on the movement and congregation of people such as; retail, social drinking & dining, entertainment and leisure restaurants will feel the strain for longer. Those in city centres, where space is at more of a premium, will find adapting to the demands of social distancing particularly challenging, especially in comparison to their ‘out of town’ competition.

While work travel will be led by necessity, it was felt that tourism in the region will take time to recover. Under lockdown we cannot travel to our favourite spots for a day out, picnic or family trip. Confidence to do this after lockdown will take time to rebuild, as will the ability for such destination to cope with large volumes of people ‘escaping’ their homes. Lack of foreign travel is clearly an opportunity in the longer term for ‘staycations’ and domestic tourism. In my wholly biased opinion where better to ‘staycate’ than Yorkshire! As a part of this recovery it was felt that the Tourism sector needs to be encouraged to share data more freely between organisations. Given the insight this might offer to the movement, ambitions and attitudes of consumers, the question was raised whether this data could be shared across sectors.

So, the pre-Sunday announcement conclusion (10th May) is that there is hope on the horizon. There was a real desire to see the positive changes to the way we work, socialise and holiday endure and benefit our region.

Post-Sunday conclusion…What’s next for Yorkshire’s economy?  Wherever possible most of us remain working from home. There is some social lockdown relaxation but it’s not sufficient to drive major change to the regional economy just yet. With the timetable for schools and nurseries to reopen linked to ‘R’ there remains uncertainty and practical limitations on parents to fully return to work. The economy is still ‘paused’ in some sectors, while others are being encouraged to cautiously re-open. It feels like it will be sometime yet before we are all up and running.

Berwick Partners and Odgers Berndtson work with regionally based clients across a wide variety of sectors and functions at Non-executive, Executive and senior leadership roles, and we hold regularly networking events like this one to keep ourselves current and connected. If you would like to hear more about our experience and how we could help your business or organisation find exceptional talent, please email