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Paul Carbert on Corbyn, the Chancellor, housing and being Brexit-ready


Read Paul's column about housing transport and being #NEBrexitReady which was published in the Journal yesterday (4 October).

Paul Carbert, policy adviser North East England Chamber of Commerce:

It is party conference season again and we have been pushing the priorities for our region at both the Labour and Conservative conferences.

At Labour's gathering Jeremy Corbyn gave an assured performance which sought to rally the party's troops. Although he could certainly be accused of playing the greatest hits with promises to abolish tuition fees and bring utilities into public ownership, the big policy reveal on housing brought a few new tunes.

Pledges to control rents and require residents' permission ahead of regeneration schemes will play directly to younger and urban voters who moved towards Labour at the last election. Businesses will be more interested in the Labour leader targetting them for tax rises to fund education and infrastructure investment - few would argue the importance of such spending, but matching investment with increased taxation risks undermining the benefit to the economy.

The Conservative conference has had its own highs and lows.

It was good news that the Chancellor used his conference speech to highlight transport investment in the North.

The amounts pledged, however, were not the game-changing figures needed to put the North on an even footing with the recent South East investment announcement.

Similarly, plans to extend the Help to Buy scheme to help with housing costs seem designed to address specific problems in London and the South East, and more imaginative and strategic thinking is needed to encourage developments in the North East that will benefit our region’s economy.

By the end of this week our politicians of all parties will be in no doubt about what our members need to be able to deliver their growth aspirations. We want to see progress on a list of issues including Air Passenger Duty, to ensure we remain competitive with Scotland; the expansion of Heathrow; investment in schools to deliver effective careers advice; and more clarification on Brexit.

As I write this, businesses are looking to the Government to help to provide certainty as we leave the European Union, but, as is usual in our region, we are also rolling up our sleeves and doing it ourselves.

We have launched a campaign with our Chamber Partner Square One Law to help our all-important supply chain manufacturers get ready for Brexit. Our work will identify the key issues which companies need to address to ensure that they are fully prepared for the changes to come in our relationship with the EU.