New approach can propel region beyond covid recovery to fairer to future
18/11/2020 - CBI
Long-term inequalities must end if region is to enjoy sustainable rebound
Targeted action to boost skills and develop physical and digital infrastructure is vital if the East of England is to build back better from the economic ravages of coronavirus, says a new report from the CBI.
The CBI’s Reviving Regions paper, sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, highlights long-standing regional inequalities across England which inhibit growth, opportunity and productivity.
It says the disparities in economic performance are large, both across England and within regions, and warns they are at risk of widening further if Government levelling-up ambitions falter in the wake of Covid-19.
The paper calls for a long-term strategic vision to guide the country through a vital post-Covid recovery and towards long-term prosperity.
For the East of England, improvements to infrastructure – ranging from enhanced 5G digital connectivity in rural areas to the long-awaited upgrade to passenger and freight capacity at Ely rail junction – have the potential to be transformational.
A fresh focus on training and retraining is another regional priority. Employment prospects vary greatly within the region, leading to pockets of low resilience and deprivation, particularly in coastal areas. The pandemic has further stifled the jobs market, making action on skills essential to protect livelihoods and support communities.
Underpinning all of this is a call to empower the East of England’s local and regional leaders to create a culture where businesses can operate, invest and grow with confidence.
The report’s recommendations include:
- Building vibrant local labour markets: including increasing local capacity to deliver back-to-work programmes alongside a long-term focus on the devolution of adult skills to meet our growing skills and retraining gap.
- Transforming local infrastructure to facilitate new ways of working: including a focus on the future of towns and cities, improving digital connectivity, and a wholesale reform of regional funding to ensure a strategic approach to future investment.
- Inspiring world-class, innovative businesses to invest in the regions: including short term interventions to help businesses grow, locally designed and delivered business support with a focus on access to exporting opportunities, and interventions to close the gap in regional R&D funding.
Richard Tunnicliffe, CBI East of England Director, said:
“The East of England is a region with many examples of excellence, ranging from the thriving high-tech economies of Cambridge and Norwich to outstanding strength in sectors like life sciences, advanced manufacturing and information technology.
“Yet these successes are not spread evenly, even within the region. Skills gaps and pockets of low investment restrict opportunity and prosperity in parts of the East of England, and challenges around connectivity – both physical and digital – must be addressed if we are to do things differently.
“Action on these issues is vital if the East of England is to enjoy a fair and sustainable recovery which enables businesses to succeed not just regionally or nationally, but globally too.”
The CBI believes the actions outlined in Reviving Regions can mitigate the regional impact of the pandemic and ensure no towns or cities are left behind as the nation looks to rebuild.
However, it stresses that a ‘one size fits all’ approach cannot succeed in combating issues which are unevenly spread, and advocates actions being locally and regionally led to ensure they are appropriately targeted.
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:
“The twin threats of Covid-19 and a potential no-deal Brexit have created a devastating and unprecedented economic challenge. Building back quickly and effectively is essential, but a recovery driven only by limited pockets of productivity is far from a real recovery, and hardly the basis for a brighter future.
“Businesses in every corner of England stand ready and willing to play their part in the economic rebound, but too-often see their efforts hampered by inadequate infrastructure and limited access to skilled workers.
“The Government must therefore prioritise long-term investment in the critical structures, training, and innovation needed to support jobs and quality of life around the UK. This long-overdue leveling up can lay the foundation for a better, greener and fairer economy for all.”
Matt Hubbard, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for the East, said:
“The regions and nations of the UK have a huge role to play in the country’s recovery from the effects of the pandemic.
“Providing the digital and physical infrastructure, as well as the skills businesses and communities need in order to thrive, will be crucial in allowing the East of England to fulfil its potential.
“Lloyds Banking Group is committed to helping every part of the UK build back from the effects of the pandemic and many of the themes highlighted in this CBI report echo what we have heard through The Big Conversation, our own programme which brings together political leaders, businesses and policy experts to explore the best road to recovery across the UK.”
For more information visit the CBI website
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