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‘First step must now become leaps and bounds’ – BCC on Levelling Up White Paper

Responding to the publication of the Levelling Up White Paper, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said:

This is an important first step in putting local economic prosperity at the heart of Government policy. This step though, must now rapidly become leaps and bounds. Business communities are keen to see the ambitions of this agenda turn into delivery in the very near future, improving prosperity around the country.

We are pleased to see policies the Chamber Network has long campaigned for - such as UK-wide infrastructure reaching London standards, widespread 5G internet, local skills planning and devolution of funding decisions to the local level – take real significance and be enshrined in law.

“What must now follow is the detail on the role local business leaders will have in oversight and delivery of the missions laid out. Where necessary, additional funding must be made available in order to drive change. Government must not forget the role that local businesses play in creating opportunity and prosperity in their communities, and should continue to work with British Chambers of Commerce and others to identify further ways to improve the business environment and enable more firms to grow and thrive.”

On Devolution

“Chamber business communities across England support greater devolution. The centralisation of money and decision making in Whitehall continues to be a brake on cities, towns and counties that are keen to realise their potential. However, businesses only want to see devolution with purpose – not just devolution for its own sake.

Devolution must be shaped by business knowledge of local and regional needs, and be accountable to local businesses and communities. It is vital that time and energy spent on structural changes results in the acceleration of genuine uplifts to prosperity in our regions and nations.

On Funding Allocation

“Government has heeded our calls to streamline the variety of funding pots and will be taking a more strategic approach to funding. Accredited Chambers would like to see local areas receive larger funds to use within a strategic framework and given greater autonomy to use it to address areas of greatest challenge or opportunity in their local communities over the long term.

Views from Local Chambers Across UK

Devon & Plymouth Chamber CEO, Stuart Elford, said:

“The South West has incredible strengths, particularly around the blue/green economy, and we had hoped that would be recognised by Government so we could leverage investment and turbocharge the economy in a way that provides equality of opportunity for all. County deals may bring some advantages, although even that is not clear, but as a region there is still no recognition of our strengths and potential.”

North East England Chamber of Commerce Policy Director, Johnathan Walker, said:

“The White Paper talks about a series of missions. To be successful a mission needs strong leadership and a relentless focus on delivery. Levelling Up must not simply exist in the minds of policy makers; it must be felt quickly by businesses and communities across our region.”

East Midlands Chamber Chief Executive, Scott Knowles, said:

“It’s promising to see Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire all named in the first cohort to be invited to agree new county deals. It’s crucial these mechanisms lead to enhanced public investment, given the East Midlands has historically received the least funding per head of any UK region.”

Suffolk Chamber Chief Executive, John Dugmore, said:

“If Suffolk is given its fair share of these investments, then the county will truly be able to make a catalytic and enduring contribution to long-term national prosperity due to its growing strengths in renewables, ports and logistics and the broader land-based economy.”

Glasgow Chamber Chief Executive, Stuart Patrick, said:

“We are delighted that Glasgow has been selected as an Innovation Accelerator. The announcement comes as an appropriate acknowledgement of the sheer scale and quality of both our academic research and the relationships that have been built with industry. Valuable initiatives that could be accelerated include Glasgow’s three innovation districts, led by the Universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, that are helping to develop our prowess in engineering, advanced manufacturing and the health and life sciences.”

Greater Manchester Chamber Policy & Campaigns Director, Chris Fletcher, said:

“Amongst the many announcements, the lack of new funding stands out. Some of the new 12 missions, the key focal points for action, have been based on what has worked in parts of the country already, such as Mayoral Combined Authorities. But, without genuine devolved powers, a central government fully prepared to ‘let go’ of control and intervention, backed up by cash, these 12 targets will never be fully realised.”

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chief Executive, Ann McGregor, said:

“Investing in high-quality infrastructure is necessary to enable businesses in Northern Ireland to boost historically low levels of productivity. Funding for skills is needed to support the 27% of people who are economically inactive into meaningful employment, and investing in healthcare is critical to ensure that the postcode lottery regarding life expectancy here is addressed.”

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