12 October 2017

  |  CBI Press Team


Lack of Yorkshire devolution deal will undermine Northern Powerhouse

An agreement between Westminster and Yorkshire could deliver the biggest devolution package yet seen, the CBI’s Director-General said.

Lack of Yorkshire devolution deal will undermine Northern Powerhouse

Carolyn Fairbairn will call on the Government to see devolution plans through to the end, and to involve business in the process.

At the Annual Dinner, held at the University of Leeds and sponsored by Northern Powergrid, NatWest and CNG, Carolyn will also call for an industrial strategy that empowers the Northern Powerhouse and shine a spotlight on Yorkshire’s rapidly growing world-class tech sector.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, will say:

“We need Yorkshire’s grit and determination now more than ever.

“Business activity in Yorkshire is growing at its fastest rate in two years. Manufacturing output is at a three-year high. And the economy is worth an astonishing £110bn per year - that’s around twice the size of Wales and larger than 11 EU countries.

 “So today I want to ask how we can maximise the tremendous power of Yorkshire business to improve the lives of everyone across the UK.”

On devolution, Carolyn will say:

“I think it’s fair to say there is concern in the business community that much of the region has fallen behind the pace. In particular, that the lack of a deal for parts of Yorkshire risks creating gaps in the Northern Powerhouse.

“We know that what matters for firms has not changed – business wants devolution to succeed.

“Because done in the right way, an agreement between Yorkshire and government could potentially unlock huge benefits for local people and business.

“There has been progress. In the last five years, we have come a long way. But to go further, the Government has to realise that it can’t devolve power to the regions with one hand and hold them back with the other.

“What we need is a willingness and openness in government to finish what has been started – and involve firms in the process.

“We are continuing to call on government to give the UK’s regions real power and enable them to develop and champion their own economic strengths.”

On Yorkshire’s tech industry, Carolyn will say:

“Yorkshire has always been full of entrepreneurship and innovation. And that spirit still burns.

“Yorkshire companies have spent 16% more on R&D than last year. It’s only right that we celebrate that success – but also how more can be made of it.

“There has been talk of making Yorkshire a new silicon valley. My response is – now is the time to go for it. At the CBI, we have stood by your side through this start up phase – and we will be by your side as you grow.

“The opportunity lies in making even more of Yorkshire’s twin engines of world-class innovation and higher education.”

On the Government’s industrial strategy, Carolyn will say:

“In the months ahead, I will be taking the voices from firms here in Yorkshire to Westminster to get an industrial strategy that works for you, your firms and your communities.

“Good infrastructure, of course, is central. The Chancellor’s announcement last week of an additional £300m for rail and £100m for roads was good progress. But we need to make sure they keep up the momentum, with details and delivery.”

On education and skills in Yorkshire, Carolyn will say:

“If there is one constraint that firms tell us about again and again, it is skills shortages. We know we have young people here who can and should have a brighter future.

“Schools, colleges, universities and businesses - all have the responsibility to work together to equip our students with the right skills for the future.

“Yorkshire firms are stepping up to the challenge. Tomorrow, I’ll visit Beckfoot Heaton Primary School to help launch the ‘Inspiring Bradford’ initiative, bringing employers and schools together to help young people understand just how many different careers are open to them.”

A new Chair for CBI Yorkshire and Humber has also been appointed, as Richard Flint takes over from Phil Jones, President and Chief Executive of Northern Powergrid. Richard is CEO of Sky Betting and Gaming, a technology company based in Leeds, with offices in Sheffield, London, Italy and Germany.

Richard has been with Sky Bet for 15 years, and has overseen the company’s growth in that time. He was responsible for bringing it to Leeds, setting up its Software Academy and opening an office in Sheffield. The company now employs over 1,000 people in both cities.

Richard has a keen interest in promoting regional growth, and contributes to research on the matter.

Commenting on his appointment, Richard Flint, Chair of CBI Yorkshire and Humber Council, said:

“I’m honoured and delighted to succeed Phil as the new chair of the CBI’s Yorkshire and Humber Council.

“At this critical time for the country and our region, the CBI will be striving for the best Brexit outcome for Yorkshire and the UK. It’s also vital that businesses and our members have a seat at the table as new devolution deals are discussed.

“I very much look forward to working alongside Beckie Hart and colleagues to support Yorkshire’s businesses as they go from strength to strength.”