The long awaited Levelling Up white paper today sets out Government plan to fix the decades long imbalance in life chances, opportunities, productivity, housing, education and infrastructure across the UK. The white paper also sets out plans to devolve more powers to the West Yorkshire mayor as well as establishing a mayoral combined authority to cover York & North Yorkshire. The ambitions are welcomed by the Chamber, where we have long advocated for investment equality so that our region can play its full role in contributing to the UK economy.
Speaking on the publication, Amanda Beresford, Chair of West & North Yorkshire Chamber and Planning Partner at Schofield Sweeney said, “Today’s paper aligns well with the Chamber’s asks of policy makers in that Levelling Up must be about all parts of Government working together across departments to achieve outcomes which improve the livelihoods and prosperity for all in our region. Levelling Up will not be achieved in a single parliamentary cycle and it is right that the policy seeks to set targets beyond the next election. We have likened Levelling Up to the post-war Marshall Plan or East German reunification, it needs long term commitment if we are to come anywhere near fixing the challenges left through de-industrialisation and from rural and coastal economic exclusion.
“Whilst the paper sets out bold ambitions it is light on how these interventions will be funded. The paper also references the need for infrastructure improvements which seems contradictory given the announcements in late 2021 to scrap Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 East, both of which would have provided significant improvements to capacity and connectivity across the North.
“The paper is right to propose increased devolution and we welcome proposals for York and North Yorkshire, but this must come with significant funding and autonomy if it is to make real impact. Devolution must be a bottom-up conversation not prescribed by Whitehall.
“The white paper also proposes to continue the Local Skills Improvement Plan initiative, which aims to put businesses at the heart of the skills agenda and ensure training providers can respond to current and future needs. Eight Chambers across the country led the pilot programmes and we hope the roll-out will enable our Chamber to develop regional programmes on behalf of firms across West and North Yorkshire.
“Like many recent policy announcements, the devil is in the detail and we will be studying the 350+ pages of this white paper and working with stakeholders on behalf of our members to ensure the Levelling Up agenda meets the needs of our region.”