Roger Marsh: Building a region to fulfil aspirations

A new plan has been unveiled to stimulate growth and investment in Leeds.

A new plan has been unveiled to stimulate growth and investment in Leeds.

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WE have just launched our refreshed Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) for the Leeds City Region.

It sets out how the LEP and West Yorkshire Combined Authority will work with partners across the public and private sectors to create thousands of new jobs for local people over the next 20 years, growing the city-region economy at a faster rate than the national average.

We’ve come a long way since the first SEP was published in 2014. The city-region economy is 14 per cent bigger, we’ve recorded faster business growth than the national average, while youth unemployment has fallen faster than the UK as a whole.

The rewards of effective partnership working are already paying dividends – thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships created, thousands of businesses helped to grow, new homes built and transport improvements underway.

However, as I’ve said before and will say again, this is not job well done; it is job well begun. There are opportunities and challenges that our city-region must address if it is to achieve its full economic potential.

This is why we’ve reviewed our SEP – not in response to an invitation from Government, but so that we remain focused on the issues that matter most to local people, business and our economy.

The impact of our work to date demonstrates that the nation gets back far more than it puts in. From our investment so far, every £1 of taxpayer’s money brings in an extra £4 from the private sector and achieves a cumulative economic impact of over £10.

The intent set out in our new SEP will build on this success, creating an extra 36,000 jobs and £3.7bn of economic output by 2036 in addition to business-as- usual growth.

This will help us to become an above average contributor to the nation’s purse, making the city-region a near £100bn economy by the end of the SEP’s life.

Central to our revised plan is good growth – ensuring that everyone who lives and works in the area feels the benefit of a stronger economy and improved business productivity.

Although we are doing better than most Northern Powerhouse city regions in combining prosperity with inclusion (according to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation), it is unacceptable to me in 2016 that there are still so many people in our region living in disadvantage.

This is why we want to balance higher levels of business growth with measures to ensure everyone in the city-region has the opportunity of a good job and a good life. 

To do this, we’ve drawn up a list of 10 “big impact” initiatives that we and our partners believe will make the biggest difference.

Building on record-breaking increases in the city-region’s share of inward investment, and recent growth in the region’s data security and digital sectors, the plan sets out an ambition of making Leeds and surrounding area a leading global centre for tech jobs and talent.

A modern, “Metro-style” transport network – similar to the one London already enjoys – is another key initiative that will make it easier and more affordable for people to commute across the city-region.

Meanwhile, we are also committed to ensuring that every young person in our region has access to a good career and decent wage – ultimately becoming a NEET-free city-region.

Clear vision and powerful partnerships are fundamental to making these ambitions real. So is a full and meaningful devolution deal for the city-region.

We will remain purposeful, persistent and patient in our call for the powers we need locally to take charge of our own economic future.

In 20 years’ time we want to look back with pride on the results of a plan well delivered: growth founded on business innovation and enterprise; excellence in digital skills and technology; far fewer young people outside of the workplace or education; clean energy and resilience against flooding; more, affordable housing; and efficient transport that connects people to jobs and businesses to markets easily.

What we get back will not only be about the metrics of more businesses, jobs and output but transformation into a confident and even more capable city-region, able to drive its own destiny and known globally as a place where everyone – people and businesses – can fulfil their aspirations.

Roger Marsh OBE is chairman of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

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