Budget 2021: Long-term investment in region holds the key to post-pandemic recovery

Yorkshire’s position as a driver for the economic future of the country has been recognised in the 2021 Budget.

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer and MP for Richmond, made a number of announcements that benefit his home county, including confirming that the new UK Infrastructure Bank will be headquartered in Leeds.

The announcement which will further support the city’s position as an established financial hub, will mean that an initial £12bn of equity and debt capital will be deployed from the city with the aim of supporting £40bn worth of green projects nationwide.

The announcement follows speculation that Leeds could become home to the Treasury’s new Northern campus, which instead went to Darlington.

The region however will also benefit from plans for a Humber Freeport that will create a regional hub for trade, innovation and commerce and were given the go ahead today. Freeport status will mean businesses can benefit from more generous tax reliefs, customs benefits and wider Government support, and are designed to bring investment, trade and jobs in order to support the regeneration of regions that need it most.

Alongside this, Humberside will also receive upgraded ports infrastructure that it is hoped will attract investment in offshore wind manufacturing and to support up to 3,000 high quality, green jobs. Welcome news for Siemens Gamesa who recently submitted a planning application to dramatically extend the site of its manufacturing space in Hull.

Roger Marsh OBE DL

The Chancellor’s announcement that the National Infrastructure Bank will be based in Leeds has been welcomed by Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and NP11 group of Northern local enterprise partnerships, who 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.”

While the new leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor James Lewis added: ““The news that Leeds will be the home of the new national infrastructure bank is a vote of confidence in the city and everyone who lives here.

“This move will give Leeds a central role in decisions that will shape the country’s future and its potentially transformative power should not be underestimated – particularly when working in tandem with the new Treasury North campus planned for Darlington.

“I am also determined to ensure that local people reap the benefits that it should bring in terms of job creation.

“As a council, we care deeply about climate change and the environment, so it is particularly exciting that our city will be at the heart of projects designed to drive forward what is sometimes described as the green industrial revolution.

“We have spent years telling people that Leeds is the place to be and it is really gratifying that our voices have now been heard.”

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire also welcomed the news.

MPs and Peers, backed by local authority and university leaders, lobbied the Chancellor in December for the bank to come to the region citing the strong case it had, based on its strengths in manufacturing, clean energy, finance and technology.

Co-chairs of the group, Barry Sheerman MP and Kevin Hollinrake MP said: “This is a real and much welcomed shot in the arm not just to Leeds but to the whole region.

“It would further strengthen the city’s position as the country’s second most important national financial centre and provide a solid base for the emergence of new industries across Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.”

Russell Turner, managing partner at Garbutt + Elliott commented: “The announcement of the UK’s first ever Infrastructure Bank in today’s Budget is great news for Leeds and the location of its headquarters has no doubt shown the government’s commitment to levelling up the country which is definitely a step in the right direction.

“Locating the Infrastructure Bank in Leeds will create new jobs, boost investment within the local economy and unlock ‘green initiatives’, both regionally and nationally, which will accelerate the government’s objective of achieving Net Zero.

“Leeds already boasts a successful financial centre and this announcement will further strengthen its position not only in the north but within the UK as a whole.”

In addition to the Freeports and the Infrastructure Bank, the Government is confirming over £1bn from the Towns Fund for a further 45 Town Deals across England.

Among recipients in Yorkshire and the Humber will be: Wakefield, Whitby, Scarborough, Grimsby, Castleford, Goldthorpe, Scunthorpe, Morley and Stocksbridge. These places will share a total investment of £199m.

The Towns Fund is intended to help “level up” regional towns, giving them the tools to design and implement a growth strategy for their area and aiding local recovery from the impact of Covid-19.

In addition to this fund, 10 local authorities in Yorkshire and the Humber will be priority places for the £220m Community Renewal Fund, which will invest in people, communities and businesses across the UK.

While West Yorkshire Combined Authority, which last year was celebrating a devolution announcement, is set to receive £7.4m in capacity funding to support preparations for Intra-City Transport Settlement Program, with  Sheffield City Region is set to receive £5.2m.

Finally the next £5.2bn Flood and Coastal Defence programme starts in April, with schemes in Rotherham and Doncaster. Together they will better protect a combined 1,171 homes from flooding are among the projects that will begin construction in 2021-22.

However, the decision not to award freeport to Sheffield City Region was criticised by Dan Fell, CEO of Doncaster Chamber who stated it was “incredibly frustrating” and “a missed opportunity for Government to honour its levelling up commitments”.

Although he added: “Whilst they are not going to be based within South Yorkshire, it is a positive move for the North of England that the Infrastructure Bank is coming to Yorkshire and that Darlington will become a Northern Campus for economic institutions such as the Treasury. We hope this will drive policy making that better aligns with regions like ours.”