CHAMBER DEMANDS A REAL LEVELLING UP BUDGET
North East England Chamber of Commerce has written to the Chancellor ahead of the Budget on 27 October urging him to help level up the North East following the enormous impact of the pandemic.
In the letter, John McCabe, Chamber chief executive, set out in stark terms how the pandemic dealt an enormous and disproportionate blow to the North East compared to the rest of the UK.
He said: “Covid has not been blind to economic circumstances. Its effects have been most profound where deprivation is the highest. The human cost of the pandemic has been appalling, yet there is also a tremendous economic cost, acerbating the regional disparities that have given rise to the unequal impact of the virus. Levelling up was of huge importance prior to the pandemic. It is now critical.
“Our businesses have performed admirably throughout the pandemic and are now beginning to see encouraging signs of recovery. They want this recovery to be sustainable, fair, and long- lasting.”
Recommendations for Government action from the Chamber cover a range of issues including the need for a clear definition of levelling up and more devolved powers.
It emphasised the importance of essential rail investment, the establishment of the long-awaited UK Shared Prosperity Fund based on regional economic need and incentivisation of investment in low-carbon housing and retrofitting.
The Chamber also stressed the combination of factors that have been so challenging to North East businesses.
In addition to the pandemic, the North East was particularly exposed to the consequences of Brexit. Many businesses saw an almost overnight fall in their European sales and have been struggling to adapt to rules, costs and subdued demand. This has undoubtedly compounded the challenges they have faced in recent months.
As well as this the letter said there were continued problems created by disruption to global supply chains and staff shortages.
The letter also highlighted the need to properly fund and support the region’s further and higher education sector and to increase funding flexibility to encourage employer investment in training.
John McCabe said: “Levelling up is a long-term project that will not be resolved through one Budget. However, the decisions and investments the Government makes on 27 October will be judged by how effective they are in moving the country towards a fairer, more balanced economy.”
The letter also extended an invitation for the Chancellor and his team to meet the Chamber and hear at first-hand its members’ views.
To access the letter click here