Home Business Events North East business leaders join forces to consider levelling up white paper

North East business leaders join forces to consider levelling up white paper

Paul Howell MP and Ian Gilthorpe, senior partner at Square One Law

A group of North East business leaders have come together to form an informal advisory group on ‘levelling up’.

Earlier this month the government released its white paper on ‘levelling up’ the United Kingdom, an ambition identified in the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto.

At a lunchtime event at NetPark, Sedgefield, sponsored by Square One Law, twenty businesses representing a full spectrum of sectors, from across the region, met to discuss the government’s preliminary proposals. Local MP Paul Howell, a member of the House of Commons Business Select Committee, was in attendance to offer introductory comments and hear feedback.

The white paper, Levelling up the United Kingdom, sets out the scale of current disparity between UK regions including in productivity, pay and health. It points out, for example, that men and women in certain areas can expect 12 fewer healthy years of life on average than those in the best-performing.

The report goes on to detail twelve specific policy missions to be achieved by 2030:
• Increase pay, employment and productivity across the UK, and reduce regional gaps.
• Domestic public investment in R&D outside south-east to rise by at least 40%.
• London-style public transport connectivity across UK, e.g., integrated ticketing.
• Nationwide gigabit broadband and 4G, with 5G for majority of population.
• Gains in primary-age reading, writing and maths, with smaller regional gaps.
• Increase in numbers for skills training, particularly in the lowest skilled areas.
• Narrowing healthy life expectancy gap, with a UK-wide rise of five years by 2035.
• Overall rise in perceived wellbeing; reduction in disparities.
• Increase in overall pride in place, and fewer disparities.
• Rise in overall number of first-time homebuyers.
• Overall fall in many crimes, focused on worst-affected areas.
• Devolution deal for every part of England that wants one.
Ian Gilthorpe, senior partner at Square One Law, said: “I want to thank the 20 business leaders who joined us to discuss the white paper in detail. As sector leaders operating in one of the regions where the concept of levelling up is most pertinent, we are well-placed to offer support to the government in achieving its ambitions.

“The white paper provides a good steer as to the government’s direction of travel, and it was good to have the ear of Paul Howell MP at our inaugural meeting. Now we need to see the meat on the bones of the proposal. The pledge to level up marks a potential seismic shift in the status quo, but it has created real expectation and this means that the government needs to step up and demonstrate its serious intent.

“The North East business community is ready and willing to help steer the government in delivering a 21st Century renaissance in our region.”

Members of the advisory group include senior figures from across Tyneside and Teesside. Companies represented include: Tier One Capital, NE1, Naylors Gavin Black, Lanchester Wines, Kromek, Turntide, Beyond Housing and Changing Lives.

The group discussed a range of issues raised by the white paper including: the so-called ‘brain drain’ and how to reverse it; developing regional innovation; and the role of civil society in helping to deliver levelling up. The group is seeking to engage Michael Gove, the secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities to discuss the issues in more detail.

Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield, said: “Before I was an MP I spent 40 years in business, but every business is different. That’s why it’s important to listen to what all businesses want and need from the levelling up agenda. I am happy to support this initiative and will be glad to feed back its findings to Michael Gove.”

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