The Conservative Policy Forum is the in-house Conservative party Think Tank. It is consulting on Post Lockdown Recovery Plans with a deadline of 4th July. As part of the final stage I will be chairing ZOOMs to help collate views from two very different audiences.
On the afternoon of 2nd July participants are being invited via Conservative Science and Technology Forum whose members wish to build on a great leap forward to a digitally enabled future. You can register interest via the link but should also e-mail [email protected] with details about yourself (including your constituency and whether you are a current or prospective party member) and the contribution you plan to make.
The ZOOM on the evening of 5th July is for participants from Lambeth and Southwark, where home-based health, welfare, education and employment proved impractical for much of the population and lockdown has greatly increased digital, economic and social divides. You can register interest by e-mailing [email protected] with similar details about yourself.
You can also submit your views direct to CPF after joining via their website.
At this point I would ask those of you who are not Conservatives to get involved in the consultations of your own party. As a levy-paying member of my Trade Union I have been active in cross-party coalitions to achieve shared objectives for almost all of my political life and would remind those do not belong to any party that without political elections, however flawed, we are all at the mercy of the unelected officials and self perpetuating quangos who created and run the current UK education and training structures.
The questions in the brief to which both sets of participants are expected to respond are below, but we have asked the CSTF participants to focus on how we “level up” (question 2) and upskill and retrain those who have lost their jobs (question 6). In inner London, however, the focus on digital futures is seen by many as being unhelpful because so many of those in need of support assume that a friendly text or phone call, let alone e-mail, offering assistance will be fraudulent.
Over recent weeks I have received invitations to many events on digital skills and inclusion. I am struck by how few of the groups involved (academic, business, charitable, departmental, educational, professional etc.) mention how they work with Local Authority or LEP-based programmes to join up activity across the various BEIS, DCMS, DfE, DWP and other funding drainpipes at the local level – to help job-seekers, pupils, students or employers when they are actively looking for opportunities or applicants. To my mind this is the point of leverage for bringing about real change. The division between those who believe the Whitehall/Westminster Village (including lobbyists) know best and those who believe that Town/County Hall is more likely to produce solutions that meet the needs of local residents and businesses is not along party lines. And both sides can be equally right and/or wrong.
The questions in the Consultation brief are:
- Would you support making particular activities such as (i) international travel, (ii) large events like football matches, or (iii) a return to certain workplaces, contingent on proof of vaccination or testing for SARSCoV–2? [Please record how many in your group answer “yes” and “no” to each option.]
- How do we exit lockdown in a way that helps to level-up the UK?
- How do we rebuild communities, charities and our social fabric?
- How do we help high streets to build back stronger than before?
- How do we encourage people to get back onto public transport and into cities again?
- How do we upskill and retrain those that have lost their jobs?
- How do we balance support for the rapid return of the hospitality sector (e.g. pubs/restaurants) and arts sectors on the one hand with public health concerns on the other?
- How might we celebrate those who have made extraordinary public contributions during the pandemic?
- Is there any other observation you would like to make?
Questions 2), 3) and 4) raise questions about how we address digital divides.
Question 5) raises issues about the success and/or limitations of home-based working.
Question 6) was answered by the CSTF-CPF ZOOM last July (report here). But time has moved on. Are the answers still valid? What more needs to be added?
Question 7) raises questions about test and trace apps.
Over the next couple of days I hope to be able to make time to collate relevant material published since the original brief and blog the links.
Obvious materials include that which accompanied the launch of the latest City & Guilds Skills Index and the Tech UK report Fast forward for Digital Jobs. There is also that linked to in my blog on the current state of Cyberskills structures and programmes.
This is a party-political consultation but most of the expected participants are also active on all-party and non-partisan activities, both locally and nationally. Few skills issues see divisions along party lines. I therefore expect the skills recommendations to reflect those contained in my draft submission to the BEIS Select Committee enquiry , probably extended to cover the issues that have emerged , for example with regard to digital hiring, including “proof” of right to work and measures to combat the current plague of employment-related fraud which threatens to success of so many programmes.