Region is well-placed to capitalise on re-balancing of the UK’s economy from south to north

Steve Johns
X The Business Desk

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By Steve Johns, partner at national law firm Weightmans LLP. 

Leeds City Region is one of the country’s fastest developing areas with the highest private sector jobs growth in the UK. This shows no sign of slowing, as businesses from around the world continue to invest in the area, and the nine universities across the region produce almost 40,000 graduates every year – no wonder it boasts the quickest growing young population outside the South East! We have some fantastic organisations working hard to promote the region on a national and international scale – but there is always more to be said and done.

We were delighted to host a roundtable at Weightmans’ Leeds office recently where an inspiring group spanning public and private sectors discussed the achievements of the Leeds City Region and most importantly, its future direction and how we all can help.

Legal and financial services have long been seen as strengths of the region’s economy, and we are proud to be part of this heritage.  More recently the region has been making a name for itself in new areas – fin tech, health tech and digital to name a few.  The recently-announced relocation of Channel 4 has also highlighted the growth of the creative industries, something that will be reinforced by the arrival of such a high-profile name.

The fact that Leeds City Region has a strong legal offering means that the region is well-placed to capitalise on a rebalancing of the UK’s economy from south to north. Whether it is procurement of new infrastructure, greater inward investment, more export opportunities or commercial and residential developments, legal advice and support is crucial for getting the best deal for all.  Weightmans and the rest of the legal sector throughout the Leeds City Region stand ready to help.

A growing economy inevitably leads to the creation of more employment opportunities, but ensuring these opportunities are open to all – and the relevant support is provided – is crucial in order for this business growth to truly benefit the region.

Key themes emerging from the roundtable included the need to overcome a perceived skills gap whilst achieving growth that is inclusive and delivers social mobility. Increasing diversity is a key focus within Weightmans, and we are proud of our ambitious apprenticeship scheme which provides opportunities in finance, administration and technology as well as law. We recognise the huge potential in our region, and work hard to encourage and empower those who may not have typically considered the possibility of a career in a major law firm.

It is vital that the potential of the Leeds City Region is not constrained by poor connectivity.  Our clients in the region operate nationally and internationally, and reflecting that wide spread of activity our lawyers themselves work for clients across the UK and beyond.  As with other businesses, it is firmly in our interest to ensure that transport links between the region and the rest of the UK and abroad are of the highest quality.

They are essential to ensure our lawyers can work more efficiently and cohesively, which in turn generates the best result for our clients. Local infrastructure is also key  – without good infrastructure across the region, attracting and retaining employees from all parts of the city region can prove difficult.

Underpinning all of this is collaboration between public and private bodies – these relationships are integral in regional evolution. From delivery of strategic development sites and attracting and retaining talent to the City Region, through to securing central government funding for major transport infrastructure, the ability to speak with one voice to government and bring key stakeholders together is fundamental.

It was clear from the discussions at the roundtable that Leeds City Region has already achieved a great deal and that it can look ahead with confidence. We must all take every opportunity to deliver that message across the UK and abroad. By pulling together, we can really put Leeds City Region on the map and deliver a future of which we can all be proud.