Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the NP11 and Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership
Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the NP11 and Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout has endangered the Government’s levelling-up agenda at a time when it’s never been more critical. The reforms and initiatives outlined by the Chancellor are encouraging, but as we move from announcement to delivery the Government should work with regional and local leadership to unlock the full potential of the North and ensure that the Northern Powerhouse is “greater than the sum of its parts.

Reforming the Treasury Green Book to recognise the strategic value of place-based investment in the North is a welcome, long overdue, and historic step to ‘levelling up’ the regions of our nation. These reforms will likely lead to further job creation, boost our region’s economic productivity, and in turn be beneficial for the Exchequer. This is a sign of progress which will go some way to realising the North’s offer which will be defined by the investment and opportunities it unlocks.

The establishment of a National Infrastructure Bank in the North is significant and symbolic of our region’s excellent potential to lead the nation in delivering high-quality projects, from house building to new sustainable infrastructure. Care should be taken not to lose the regional successes of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund. Targeted Government investment with support from local and regional leadership is critical to the success of the levelling-up agenda. It will be important to ensure that the Government’s planned levelling-up fund, which will be managed centrally and subject to competitive bids, is able to target investment where it’s most needed. Whilst the £4 billion fund will go some way to boosting local infrastructure projects, there is an opportunity to use Local Enterprise Partnerships and regional bodies like the NP11 to bring together the public and private sectors for maximum impact. We are keen to work with the Government on the design and delivery of the Shared Prosperity Fund on this basis.

The economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will provide a renewed and welcome focus on clean growth. The Chancellor has rightly recognised the integral role that the North will play in leading the nation towards our shared environmental ambitions. Further investment in freeports, carbon capture and storage, Off-shore wind, and electric car manufacturing, will strengthen the North as the national leader in trade and investment, sustainable infrastructure and renewable energies.

This significant investment will not only be environmentally critical but economically vital to the North, and will lead to the creation of many more jobs in these sectors. This targeted Government investment will enable the North to lead the transition to a zero-carbon economy, by investing in renewable energy and innovating in decarbonising industry.

Innovation in renewable energy, as well as other cutting-edge industries, is key to closing the productivity gap. The additional £15 billion of funding for Research & Development is an opportunity to level up Northern Research and Development and regional growth in the UK. The future success of the levelling-up agenda will be dependent upon these initiatives being accompanied by appropriate funding.

Whilst the Chancellor has taken welcome steps, more needs to be done, and with urgency, to properly equip the North with the powers and resources to reach our full potential. Our region has been disproportionally affected by the pandemic, and will need further political and economic levers to fully recover. Rebalancing the economy is not a one-off event or initiative, it will need to be a sustained collaborative process over many years. The NP11 stands ready to work with Government and lead thinking on economic recovery plans for the North.”