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Leeds City Summit 2015

13 October 2015
Leeds City Summit 2015
The Leeds City Summit was one of the crucial opening events of Day 1 of the Leeds Business Week and took place at one of Leeds' most inspiring venues, Salem Chapel. Run in the style of BBC’s Question Time the event was an opportunity for the audience to address questions to a particularly impressive panel of private and public sector leaders…

The event headed off with the panellists introducing themselves and taking into discussion a few selected questions sent in beforehand from those among the audience. The panellists included:

Helen Beachall – General Manager of Simon On The Streets, Simon On The Streets is an independent Yorkshire charity working to support those across the region who have un-met complex needs.

Dr. Adam Beaumont – CEO of aql
aql is a provider of specialist secure telecoms and mobile communication solutions. SMS, VoIP, wholesale termination and network services.

Arif Ahmad – Senior Partner of PwC’s Leeds Office PwC provide assurance, tax and advisory services to clients across all industry sectors. PwC is committed to building relationships and creating value for them.

Councillor Judith Blake – Leeds City Council Judith is the Leader of Council and Executive Member for Economy and Culture.

Richard Flint – CEO Sky Betting and Gaming Sky Betting and Gaming bring the excitement of Sports Betting, Casino Games, Poker and Bingo to over 1 million customers in the UK. With a strong track record in digital innovation, the company has more than doubled in size over the last 5 years.

Professor Paul Smith -Deputy Vice Chancellor (Strategic Development) Leeds Beckett University Paul joined Leeds Beckett University in October 2010 from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge where he was Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology.

This year’s City Summit had a special interest and focus on the Northern Powerhouse debate with question after question highlighting factors such as the importance of the collaboration between cities in the northern region and the priorities for the Leeds City region to get ahead in the Northern Powerhouse ‘race’. Following is a sample question from the audience and highlights of the answers provided by the panellists:

The northern powerhouse is a big topic at present, receiving lots of collaboration in Yorkshire. What should we be doing to draw in collaboration between Yorkshire and the rest of the north?

Thinking about my business, we have 6 offices across the North in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Hull, Sheffield and Newcastle. We are part of a national firm and we do things on a local basis here in Leeds where there is the key benefit of us collaborating across Yorkshire or across the North to make sure that we get the best resources available to deliver. That’s what we do and that’s what I’d like to see in terms of Yorkshire’s approach, Leeds City Region’s approach to devolution…

                   Arif Ahmad – Senior Partner of PwC’s Leeds office

Perhaps in Yorkshire we do tend to think of ourselves as in competition with places like Manchester and Sheffield as far as Leeds is concerned. I think that we have to recognise that in terms of the global scale, the North actually makes more sense as an economic area, so we should be thinking about collaboration in the North and what we can do to encourage that, such as through the improvement of transport links, and I think just communicating globally about the strengths and the opportunities in this area.

                         Richard Flint – CEO Sky Betting and Gaming

We do need to find platforms for collaboration and platforms for investments. Platforms for collaboration, for example internet exchange, so when we talk about connectivity in the digital domain, Sheffield is actually less than a millisecond away from Leeds if you look at it by speed of light. These are important things. We might not be able to build a new train service tomorrow between Leeds and Manchester but we can build a far better inter-city connectivity…

                                      Dr. Adam Beaumont – CEO of aql

If the North was a country, we would be 21st in the world in terms of economic performance and that’s something we really have to think about. I like what you say in your question about collaboration: we do have to collaborate but my worry about the current debate is that we are being set up to compete against each other and actually, we are not having any of that. We recognise that the strength in the north is real and we have to really work in business in particular to work out the barriers to economic competence…

                        Councillor Judith Blake – Leeds City Council

I think there has always been cooperation and collaboration between all of the higher education institutions in the country and I think that’s what’s really strengthened our brand, both at home and overseas. We are able to talk to specialists and bring them in to projects, extend our research and use that as a springboard to move on…

Professor Paul Smith - Deputy Vice Chancellor, Leeds Beckett University

If we can look at more regional rather than just city or county based events we could really pull people together. There are lots of other things we could do but fundamentally the networking part of it for me is absolutely key across all aspects universities, councils, businesses…

            Helen Beachall – General Manager of Simon On The Streets
Kam is a Business Writer for Leeds Living. Having joined in April 2015 she writes for the Strictly Business section and specialises in business editorials.