Leeds City Region’s response to the Government’s Industrial Strategy is to boost business productivity and tackle inequality.
The ambitious plans, which are being developed by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, were discussed earlier this week by business and civic leaders in response to the Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper, published alongside the Budget in November 2017.
This new strategy will build on the existing Strategic Economic Plan, which in 2014 enabled the LEP to secure a £1 billion-plus Growth Deal to support jobs and economic growth
As a result of the deal, multi-million-pound investments in new roads, rail stations, colleges, housing developments and regeneration schemes are now well underway and is set to create up to 36,000 extra jobs in the region.
However, the gap between the City Region’s productivity and the UK average remains wide and the benefits of a strong economy are not shared across the region, with one-sixth of its residents still living in poverty.
Roger Marsh OBE, chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “The ambition of our existing Strategic Economic Plan was compelling enough to secure the largest Growth Deal of any local enterprise partnership area in the country four years ago.
“That ambition – to transform the Leeds City Region economy for the benefit of everyone who lives and works here, and to play our full part in driving national competitiveness – still stands.
“However, the world has moved on substantially in the past four years, and it’s vital that our plans respond to the challenges we now face – such as Brexit, the UK’s productivity crisis, and changes to the labour market which are limiting people’s economic prospects.
“If we can bring our region’s productivity in line with the national average, through business investment in skills, R&D and innovation, we can add £10 billion to our economy, which would mean more opportunities for businesses and more jobs for local people.
“I look forward to working with people and businesses across Leeds City Region over the coming months through an open and inclusive engagement process that will help us shape a positive, dynamic future for our region.
“I am personally committed to ensuring that opportunities for future generations in our region are every bit as rewarding and exciting as they have been for our generation.”
Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, added: “The Government’s Industrial Strategy puts a welcome focus on the role of city regions like ours in sustaining the UK’s prosperity as we prepare to leave the European Union, however, it could go further in ensuring that future growth is inclusive growth, benefitting all parts of our communities.
“As a partnership of councils and business, we’ve been focusing on inclusive growth for many years now.
“The impact we had on reducing youth unemployment at the height of the Great Recession, for example, was proof that devolution to local leaders who understand local priorities really works and makes a genuine difference to people’s lives.
“We will, therefore, be putting forward a bold strategy to the government which reflects and supports the aspirations of the three million people who call our region home and builds on our experience of delivering successful devolved government programmes over the past decade.”
People, businesses and other organisations will have the opportunity to help shape Leeds City Region’s Inclusive Industrial Strategy through an engagement exercise that will launch in early spring.
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