‘A vibrant cyber sector could revitalise post-industrial towns’ – Labour MP Platt

Shadow Cabinet Office minister to tell PublicTechnology event that a regionally led approach focused on delivering skills for the public good could stimulate deindustrialised communities

Credit: UK Parliament/ CC BY 3.0

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jo Platt has urged the creation of regional skills councils that could promote the cyber sector as a way to “revitalise and renew” deindustrialised towns and cities.

Giving the keynote address at the PublicTechnology Public Sector ICT summit, taking place today in central London, Platt (pictured above) is expected to say that “as organisations have capitalised on the digital revolution, the skills needed to design, create and secure new systems have lagged behind demand”.

To help bridge this skills gap, the Labour MP believes that a locally managed approach to increasing skills and promoting new sectors could benefit former industrial communities – such as her own constituency of Leigh. Rather than a strategy that relies heavily on delivery by the private sector, a Labour government would seek to “acknowledge the public good in delivering the skills that we all rely on”.

“Representing a post-industrial town in the north, with limited well-paid or highly skilled employment, something struck me in a constituency meeting a few months ago,” Platt will say. “As traditional manufacturing industries decline in towns across the UK, surely there is a role, a responsibility of government to revitalise these communities and their economies, replacing industries of old with the developing industries of new that we know our nation so desperately needs.

“On the one hand, we have a critical industry skills gap and on the other we have communities desperate for schemes and initiatives to upskill. To me, the solution is obvious.

“I would love to see the creation of regional skills councils.

“Councils that have the local good at heart and are in a position to identify communities that can benefit from this emerging industry.

“Just last year Labour announced our Rebuilding Britain message, so what better way could we revitalise and renew economies than with the spread of the vibrant cyber sector into communities still reeling from deindustrialisation and austerity?”

Time to step up
Elsewhere in her speech, Platt will say that Labour “wants to be at the forefront” of an ongoing cyber and digital revolution.

“The current organisation of cyber across government is chaotic,” she will say. “Where they should be stepping up, they are stepping back.

“We must be unafraid to reclaim the cyber landscape and to confidently put the public interest first. Labour will tackle this head on [and] will provide the leadership that cybersecurity in government needs.” 

The shadow minister believes that cyber requires a more cohesive approach across government, and the removal of departmental barriers.

“Where coordination does happen, it is often left to civil servants – who it must be said do a fantastic job – but it’s time for politicians to step up and lead from the front.”

“We will take a strategic approach to tackle our cybersecurity challenges – one that facilitates cooperation and co-ordination across Whitehall, when too often departments work in siloes,” Platt will say. “We need this approach because currently where coordination does happen, it is often left to civil servants – who it must be said do a fantastic job – but it’s time for politicians to step up and lead from the front.”

More clarity of ministerial briefs and closer collaboration with local government is also required, according to Platt.

“We need clearer lines of ministerial responsibility,” the shadow minister will say. “And we need to do more in central government to co-ordinate efforts with our local authorities, where cybersecurity is often poor, ensuring that they are adequately resourced to confront the challenge.”

She will add: “The future of our digital and cyber landscape is unknown, but we know that there is plenty there to be done. Now it is for us to step up.”


Sam Trendall

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