How we will power up North after pandemic and reward your efforts – Grant Shapps

THE North, its people and economy, has a key role to play in leading this country in its recovery from the present crisis.

Friday, 17th April 2020, 5:50 am
Updated Friday, 17th April 2020, 9:17 am

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That is the message I delivered yesterday at a meeting with Northern business leaders I convened with ministerial colleagues as we reaffirmed our commitment to the region.

I was impressed by the determination expressed by those at the meeting who are working daily to protect jobs and prepare for the recovery. For my part, I was able to assure them that the Government will be with the people of the North every step of the way.

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps during a visit to Leeds earlier this year.

The Government continues its resolve that the North, its people and its economy, will be at the forefront of a modernised economy, equipped with cutting-edge infrastructure and a highly trained workforce.

A few weeks on and a lot has happened. Our nation is battling a deadly virus and, to protect our NHS, much of our economy has been forced into a temporary hibernation.

But when this lockdown ends, and it will end, this Government will ensure the North is primed at the starting gate, ready to lead the recovery of the British economy. In the meantime, we have acted to ensure our economy will be ready to restart.

We are providing £330bn in loans and guarantees, for example, to help companies across the country stay afloat. And it’s been heartening to see local authorities in Yorkshire providing millions in government grants to small businesses, through the Government scheme. In addition, we are paying furloughed employees 80 per cent of their wages and self-employed workers cash grants worth up to £2,500 a month.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is also the Northern Powerhouse Minister.

These extraordinary steps illustrate our determination to give companies the financial firepower to fight Covid-19.

As Transport Secretary, as well as Northern Powerhouse Minister, I also know full well the importance of maintaining good rail and bus services for frontline workers and those who quite rightly need to commute because they cannot do their jobs from home.

That’s why last month, I announced a £168m package to keep buses in Yorkshire and in the rest of England running regularly and reliably. In addition, we’re supporting our railways: both to stay open for these workers during the outbreak, and so they are ready to enable our recovery.

That is why this week contracts were signed for the construction of HS2, securing jobs in the building industry and marking the next step for this vital project which will boost productivity and rebalance opportunity fairly across the country, especially the North.

Grant Shapps has singled out firms like Asda for their response to the Covid-19 crisis.

My colleagues and I will be having similar discussions in the coming days and weeks. Hearing about the individual acts of kindness during the crisis as well as ideas to rebuild our economy. That’s because Yorkshire and the Northern Powerhouse will play a critical role in driving this country’s recovery, with international investment, new jobs and economic growth.

It would also be remiss not to pay tribute to the workers who’ve kept our country going in the last few weeks, including the essential business staff in Yorkshire supermarkets, warehouses and on shop floors.

Then, there are the major businesses like Asda which has made huge efforts to ensure that the vulnerable can access essential items.

And there is the multitude of small businesses, from take-aways to tech companies, who have shown the human spirit at its brightest and best.

Employees at Elland-based firm technology Vapour are using 3D printers to create protective visors for shop staff and other key workers. In Harrogate a restaurant has been offering free food for vulnerable people such as rough sleepers and discounts to NHS staff. Businesses and tradespeople across North Yorkshire, who are able to work under the restrictions, are signing up the County Council’s innovative Buy Local site. And Horsforth-based firm, TPP, is helping to run clinical trials of medicines that could reduce the duration and severity of Covid-19.

There are of course many other examples, too numerous to mention. Thank you to each and every one of you. You are among the true heroes of this hour.

And it is for these heroes that the Government will continue to work closely. Together we will resume our mission to invigorate the economy of the North and spread opportunity to all. That is our commitment to the people of the North, and to the heroes who go out each day. It is an honour to serve as Minister for the Northern Powerhouse, and it will be a privilege to be a part of its bright future.

Grant Shapps is the Transport Secretary and Northern Powerhouse Minister.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

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Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson