Business leaders from West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce met Labour’s Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell recently.
The senior opposition MP visited Shipley in support of the party’s election candidate, Jo Pike, and included a meeting with the Chamber as part of the trip. Nick Garthwaite and Suzanne Watson, respectively Bradford Chamber’s president and vice-president, led the business delegation, which also included Chamber board member Stephen Wright and policy executive Mike Cartwright.
The business leaders raised concerns about the effect of hiking up corporation tax, which Labour says is needed to help fund a better education service, and also called for a commitment to tie Bradford into the Northern Powerhouse Rail plan. Assurances were also sought on securing adequate replacements for EU Structural Funds, currently being explored as the ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’.
There was significant discussion around education and skills issues, with agreement on both sides that implementation of the well-intentioned apprenticeship levy had been unsuccessful. Mr McDonnell said that Labour was planning to consult on whether or not academy schools should be brought under local authority control, something that the Chamber says could potentially be very disruptive. However, asked what Labour could do to resolve the current impasse on devolution for Yorkshire, the Shadow Chancellor said it was down to the local areas involved to conclude.
Nick Garthwaite said afterwards: “Despite Labour being in opposition, it is important, when appropriate, for us to have conversations with relevant politicians irrespective of party affiliations. The exchange of views, concerns and ideas is all part of the policy development and lobbying process.”
Other meeting with politicians in 2018 included:
- Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary
- Nusrat Ghani, Transport Under-Secretary
- Caroline Noakes, Immigration Minister
- Lord Bridges, Department for Exiting the EU
- Peter Dowd, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury