When the government won the election in 2019, it was done so off the back of repeated promises to level up the country. Whilst no one could have predicted what 2020 was going to bring, this commitment remains as important as ever if we are to bounce back from the impacts of COVID-19 and build back better.
As set out in the CBI’s new report Reviving Regions, the country has longstanding productivity and equality differences. These disparities are large, both across English regions, but also within them. With productivity affecting wage growth and living standards, closing these productivity gaps must be a priority for local, regional and national government.
The CBI has been working closely with businesses across all English regions and in a wide range of sectors to understand what action is needed to ensure all regions can bounce back from the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit, all whilst closing longstanding gaps in productivity and equality across the country.
What does the report recommend?
The conclusion from consultation with business was that a new approach is needed to ensure that no part of the country is left behind as the nation looks to rebuild post-coronavirus. Local, regional and national government must work in collaboration, alongside business, to deliver long-term prosperity.
The report sets out 10 recommendations underpinned by the idea that local and regional leaders must be empowered through further devolution. This must give them the powers but also the resources to create an environment where businesses can operate, invest and grow in any region, with confidence.
The report’s recommendations include:
- Building vibrant local labour markets: including increasing local capacity to deliver back to work programmes alongside a long-term focus on the devolution of adult skills to meet our growing upskilling and retraining gap.
- Transforming local infrastructure to facilitate new ways of working: including a focus on the future of towns and cities, and a wholesale reform of regional funding to ensure a strategic approach to future investment.
- Inspiring world-class, innovative businesses to invest in the regions: including short term interventions to help businesses grow, locally designed and delivered business support with a focus on access to exporting opportunities, and interventions to close the gap in regional R&D funding.
The CBI, in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group, will be publishing a series of regional scorecards in 2021. Through analysing local and regional data across a range of productivity metrics, these scorecards will aid an understanding of what is driving variance in performance across the country
Beyond this, the CBI is committed to working closely with local leaders on emerging regional recovery plans and will be developing business manifestos to shape the upcoming Metro Mayor elections. Please contact Hannah Richmond for more information.