The North reacts
The Chancellor’s latest Budget was firmly positioned as a budget about building for the future.
Whether it was the announcements for intra-city transport funding, Freeports or the locations of new organisations there was a lot for the North to take away and digest ahead of the inaugural Invest North conference on 24 March, which looks to set the agenda for what comes next for the region.
We spoke to some of the industry and public sector leaders who will be taking part in the conference to hear what they had to say about Rishi Sunak’s latest plans.
Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwen and the chair of the Northern Research Group stated that Sunak’s latest Budget was clearly a “statement of intent” which highlighted that the Chancellor was “committed to investing in the North”.
Lord Jim O’Neill, vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, commented that overall it was a “quite generous” budget.
He added however: “There was no silver bullet announced today from a levelling perspective but today’s budget shows signs that the Chancellor plans to keep his promise to deliver for the north.
“Hopefully moving the Treasury to Darlington and setting up the new Infrastructure Bank in Leeds should both act as spurs to further ‘Northshoring’, where businesses are incentivised to invest or relocate here, helping growth in the long-term.”
He also called for “a clear roadmap for rebalancing the economy through a northern economic recovery plan” that would see the productivity gap addressed and could deliver “real, sustainable change.”
Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and NP11 group of Northern local enterprise partnerships, echoed some of the sentiments around the locating of the UK Infrastructure Bank in Leeds.
He said: “Locating this powerful national institution in our region will be a real catalyst for change and a major driver of our post-pandemic recovery. It will build on our long-term commitment to ensuring that the benefits of economic growth are felt by all of our communities.
“The UK Infrastructure Bank will play a crucial role in supporting the Government to achieve its pledge to level-up the UK, reach net-zero carbon by 2050 and accelerate COVID-19 recovery.”
Patricia Moore, UK managing director of Turner & Townsend also highlighted how regional investment could drive the UK’s recovery. Stating: “Today we saw further signs of the kind of creativity that we need to build back better. The commissioning of the new UK Infrastructure Bank in Leeds will grab attention from investors, and pits the country ahead of many nations mulling similar measures to help stimulate interest.
“The unveiling of eight new Freeports, including the East Midlands and Teesside, will help support the levelling up agenda through jobs and inward investment – with benefits to a long supply chain beyond the confines of a physical port zone. So too will the new Government economic campus planned for Darlington.”
The latest Budget also looked to address the challenges faced by the hospitality industry, and Sacha Lord, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said it meant businesses in the sector could “breathe a sigh of relief”.
“The surprise extension to furlough to September is a welcome move, acknowledging that for the majority of operators, recovery will be a slow and steady process. This extension will allow businesses to feel more financially settled before having to bring all staff back or being forced into making redundancies, and I know this measure will save hundreds of thousands of jobs across the sector.
“The business rate and hospitality VAT cuts will be a lifeline to many. We have lost a huge number of venues in the past 12 months, but with these measures in place we can now look forward and support those who have desperately hung on.”
James Mason, chief executive officer of tourism organisation Welcome to Yorkshire like Lord welcomed what he called a “much needed lifeline”, adding that “there’s lots to look forward to and embrace, but crucial consideration should be given to many aspects of the road to tourism recovery in the weeks and months ahead.”
However some of the conference’s speakers felt the Budget could have done more. Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council welcomed the new of the UK Infrastructure bank and the benefit it would bring to Leeds, Bradford and the wider region but added:
“The Budget was a missed opportunity for the Chancellor to commit to funding the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Plan. It risks high levels of unemployment in West Yorkshire and wiping out the benefits of two decades’ growth, causing untold long-term damage on the lives and livelihoods of people from every community in our region.”
Invest North is a not to be missed one day event curated by TheBusinessDesk.com, with headline sponsors are EY, Squire Patton Boggs, Impact Data Metrics, and Influential.
The programme includes sessions on the future of the North, redefining cities in the post pandemic world and the future of the devolved North. With the event bringing together industry and policy leaders; sharing insight, analysis and original research; and setting the agenda for what comes next.