The North is integral to UK growth

Last night shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds told attendees at the first Invest North dinner that the North is integral to the UK achieving economic growth.

During the dinner, sponsored by Squire Patton Boggs, Mott Macdonald, Progeny and Phoenix Group, the MP for for Stalybridge and Hyde started by stating that the country’s “ambition has got to be higher than 1% growth a year” following a bounceback from the downturn of the pandemic, he highlighted three themes which he said will be an essential part in delivering the “amazing possibilities ahead of us” resulting in “better jobs, better wages, better opportunities for all our people”.

The first theme of Net Zero, an essential part of the UK and global response to the climate crisis, is he put it also the “big story of jobs and growth for the future”.

Despite welcoming the cross party support and the success of projects around offshore he also said there needs to be a gear change in the country’s response.

This gear change he said needs his second theme, “an industrial strategy that businesses can trust to be in place for longer than just one parliament” and “a significant increase in public investment to de risk the corresponding investment from the private sector”.

Reynolds highlighted the country cannot reduce its emissions by simply “shutting down its industrial capacity” but must also look at what the country imports and consumes.

The Greater Manchester MP also highlighted that the targets the government had adopted around Levelling Up – a project he welcomes – were “very modest”.

“There are today 300,000 more people that work here in the North West than they were eight years ago. So I would suggest, it’s a certainty that in eight years time there will have been some increasing gain in employment in every region of the UK.

“But other targets on productivity, on investment and on inequality will require a substantial change to what we’ve seen over the last decade. I would say the UK’s poor productivity cannot be separated from the fact that we owe the economy with the lowest rate of private investment in the G7. And the success of any strategy, whether we call it levelling up or industrial policy or anything else is not so much in the targets that are set, but what any government puts forward for how they will be delivered.”

This he said linked to the second theme, industrial strategy. Reynolds said he would be publishing Labour’s industrial strategy during the 2022 conference season, which would be “based on very practical examples to try and create the confidence and evidence of long term political commitment”. Adding this long term commitment he sees as essential.

The final theme the MP highlighted as being critical to achieving the UK and the North’s growth was Brexit.

Acknowledging that the exiting of the EU had brought uncertainty and disruption, he said the Labour party was “determined to try and move the country into the future and away from a permanent, never ending debate about EU membership and structures and that simply wouldn’t be good for anyone”.

Instead the answer to it and focus must be on trade solutions, adding that the UK must always seek to improve its trading position with all of its trading partners and that the EU must be no different in that matter.

Bringing his speech to an end Reynolds said these three points alone wouldn’t do it all but also outlined his party’s proposal to tackle what he saw as the biggest challenge to town centre regeneration, business rates.

Stating that in his constituency he sees first hand how they deter businesses from starting up and successful companies from expanding.

“So our proposal is to use the income from the global minimum corporation tax agreement to reduce the burden of business rates overall, and to change the formula entirely to better share the burden between online sales and those from physical premises. That perhaps more than any other single measure would I believe improve investment in every part of the North.”

He ended by stating the North is a place of tremendous opportunity and said “it’s the job of all of us to build on that and to ensure our best days are ahead of us.”

The Invest North 2022 dinner was a physical event that looking to continue the conversation of what comes next for the North from’s virtual conference Invest North 2022, which took place on Wednesday 2 March.

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