Lucy Winskell OBE, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), gives her reaction to the Autumn Budget and Spending Review delivered today by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP.
“The North East LEP welcomes the intent of the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget and Spending Review, which outlines the start of preparations for a new post-Covid economy. The fact the economy is stronger at this point than previously expected is a positive step forward.
“We heard that higher level skills, coupled with levelling up to increase productivity and innovation will be central to government’s post-Covid economy. This very much fits with our own vision for the North East.
“It is hoped the £560m allocated to adult numeracy skills across the UK will help address some of the needs set out in our recently published local skills report. We also need to improve digital skills and inclusion so that every North East resident can access education and employment.
“Of specific interest is the £1.6bn over three years which will include funding to support the roll out of new T Levels for 16-19-year-olds. We are already on the front foot with this and working with the first regional T Level providers to support both them and employers.
“We welcome the commitment to continue to invest in innovation towards the national R&D targets. We’ve made compelling cases for investment in low carbon energy solutions and health and life sciences, which we look forward to progressing with government. Our regional universities have world-leading strengths in innovation – expertise which we will continue to help our SME access and benefit from.
“We await more detail on the allocation to support Community Renewal Fund proposals made by partners in the region, and about how the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will be structured to invest into the region’s economic priorities.
“The measures announced to help businesses continue to recover from the pandemic and to grow and thrive are welcomed. The package of short-term changes to business rate relief will support businesses through the next year, and over the longer term the changes to the revaluation cycle should help to bring costs in line with property value. Our view is that we must not lose sight of the difference in property values between the North East and the South and we need a business rates system that works and is fair for all.
“The commitment of over £1.6 billion for the British Business Bank to continue to provide debt and equity finance for small and medium sized business, signifies the commitment to extend the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and government’s confidence in Northern businesses to scale up and compete in global markets. Landing investment in the North East will enable our businesses to deliver on their growth plans and create more and better jobs.
“The inclusion of local projects in the announcement of successful Levelling Up Fund bids was good to hear. These projects include £20m for the Grainger Market and £19.8m for West Denton Community Leisure Centre along with funding to establish the Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy in Sunderland. Other regionally significant project proposals remain with government for consideration in future tranches.
“Although we welcome the changes to Air Passenger Duty which will help Newcastle Airport, we are disappointed that government has announced significant transport investment across the rest of the North but not in the North East, something I am working with public sector colleagues to change. It is essential to the success of our economy that the critical investment needed in our transport infrastructure is unlocked.
“Our Global North East report highlights how an increase in international trade is crucial in helping us increase our competitiveness, drive higher productivity, and create more and better jobs. We therefore note the increase in funding for trade and export services and look forward to a conversation with government about the approach to supporting growth in trade and export by North East businesses.
“Finally, we have played an integral part in the ongoing national review of Local Enterprise Partnerships, and now understand the results will be published alongside the Levelling Up White Paper in the coming weeks. We are primed and ready to respond to champion the region and ensure the North East regional economy, its businesses and residents prosper.”