Political and business leaders from across the Leeds City Region met yesterday, Wednesday 29 June, to galvanise support for the City Region’s growing and resilient economy, reinstate the value of diversity and cohesion in the community and identify where opportunities could exist upon leaving the European Union.
Representatives from the LEP, Institute of Directors, Federation of Small Businesses and the Chamber of Commerce alongside university representatives and leaders of the West Yorkshire Local Authorities, were united in the need to remain calm, collected and cohesive following the outcome of the European referendum.
The City Region already boasts established international trade links with an outward looking vision to grow the economy, a reduced rate of youth unemployment, growth in the number of businesses faster than in the UK as a whole and it remains an attractive location to potential investors with investment onsite or in the development pipeline totalling over £10bn. The overwhelming message from the meeting was of reassurance that the public and private sectors are working together to maintain stability in the economy and ensure the north is not left behind as result of this vote.
There was agreement that devolution has an even greater role in advancing the Northern Powerhouse agenda. Local politicians commended the high quality of front line services that have been maintained despite previous cuts of around 40% to local government funding. At the same time as wanting to advance the Northern Powerhouse agenda, those in attendance noted further cuts to public sector spending would undermine this initiative.
They also recognised the opportunity for the City Region to grasp the Northern Powerhouse agenda, ensuring the government upholds its ambition to address years of under investment in the north and ensure initiatives are led by those who understand local pressures and opportunities.
As a result of the meeting, clear actions have been identified to look at the economic and social implications on the Leeds City Region economy and develop joint initiatives in line with the recently launched Strategic Economic Plan. Public and private sector representatives are establishing a task group to address the short-medium term impacts and minimise any risks to economic growth and social stability. The LEP and local leaders will be pressing the government for a clearer timetable to implement devolution as quickly as possible.
Speaking before the meeting, Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the LEP and Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority said: “We believe it is important to bring together our key decision makers in light of the country’s vote to leave the EU and assess any potential implications on the delivery of our programmes.
“We trust that the UK government will make every effort to ensure that regions, like Leeds City Region, that receive significant levels of European funding will not lose vital investment for jobs, skills, business growth and regeneration and continue to support the ambition of the Northern Powerhouse. We also need to ensure that locally, the public and private sectors unite behind a shared interest and vision for growing the regional economy.
“Once we have calibrated the impact on the city region economy and our current pipeline of projects, we will work with partners to put in place measures to maximise the opportunities this outcome presents and address any challenges that lie ahead.”