Lucy Winskell OBE, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), gave her reaction to the Budget delivered today by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP.
“Today’s Budget made clear the profound impact that COVID-19 has had on the UK economy, with the strong economic progress we saw up to February 2020 being disrupted. Whilst many places and sectors in the North East have proven to be very resilient, we should still be concerned about the inequalities which are evident between regions.
“We welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of ongoing support for workers and businesses who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The extension of the furlough scheme and the availability of grants of up to £18,000 for businesses operating in the hospitality and retail sectors and £400m for the arts and cultural sector will help communities in the North East to rebuild strongly and with resilience.
“As we see the continuing rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, we are moving closer to more people being able to safely return to the workplace, and ongoing support for businesses at this time of transition will be a critical part of our economic recovery. We know that many businesses are likely to review how they operate in the future, given our experiences of home working and the rapid development of digital technologies, and we will be looking to government to enable us to support our communities and businesses to drive forward their digital transitions.
“It is with bitter disappointment that we learnt today that our bid for a North East England Freeport was unsuccessful and that Newcastle would not become home to the Treasury as we had hoped.
“Our collaborative Freeport bid was hugely innovative and universally supported – and critically would have enabled us to transform the lives of millions of people in a region hardest hit by COVID-19 and the EU exit.
“Our focus is now on understanding what levels of investment that government is prepared to make in the North East so we can achieve our joint ambitions of creating more and better jobs, levelling up, and further unlocking our industrial potential to allow us to play our part in contributing to UK plc.