Chamber: City is growing in national importance

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THE president of the Leeds Chamber last night urged businesses to support regeneration of the city’s south bank area, back the campaign for greater devolution of powers from Whitehall and work with the education sector to provide jobs for young people.

Speaking at the annual dinner of the Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Nigel Foster said the last 12 months have been transformational for Leeds. He said: “If 2013 was the start of a renaissance... then I believe 2014 will be a year when the city reinforces its increasing importance in the UK economy.”

Mr Foster welcomed the opening of Trinity Leeds and the First Direct Arena, further investment in the office market, £50m in funding for medical and biological engineering at Leeds University and its new vice chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands.

But in spite of the advances made in Leeds, he said the UK still faces signficant challenges to ensure that economic growth is more balanced across the country and creates opportunities for all parts of society and a more sustainable economy.

Mr Foster said the chamber has identified three big topics where businesses can support the aspiration for Leeds to be the best city in the UK.

He said the south bank area presents an opportunity to expand the city centre, create space for new sectors to grow and accommodate new housing, a park and the planned HS2 station.

Mr Foster urged businesses to support the efforts of the council and the local enterprise partnership to secure greater devolved powers from Whitehall.

He called on businesses to work with educational establishments to create apprenticeships and jobs for young people.

Looking ahead to next year, he said that Government must continue to promote pro-business policies and avoid short-term interventions just to satisfy voters in the general election. Consistent economic policies and confidence are vital for investment and job creation, added Mr Foster, a former director at the engineering consultancy Arup.

The Leeds York and North Yorkshire Chamber is due to merge with Bradford Chamber on February 10.

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