Stephen Church, EY’s North Markets Leader and Manchester Office Managing Partner comments on the Levelling Up white paper:

4th February 2022, 12:55 pm

“The Levelling Up White Paper sets out the UK government’s ambition to narrow the North-South divide and drive economic prosperity to the North of England. Today’s commitment of further devolution to numerous areas of England is warmly welcomed. Bringing decision-making closer to the people is central to this agenda, ensuring the right action to combat inequality is focused locally, and further devolution will enable other regions to follow in the footsteps of strong mayoral leaders.

“Funding announced to support towns and cities across the North, such as the plans for bus improvements in Warrington announced today, are fundamental to supporting regeneration, which will be key to driving a balanced pandemic recovery in the places that need it most. The announcement of a new Innovation Accelerator to be based in Greater Manchester, will enable local businesses and researchers to accelerate local growth backed by new government funding, enhancing the creation of a well-connected, skilled labour market to fuel employment for the future.

“However, our latest Regional Economic Forecast report shows that while the economic bounce of a post-pandemic recovery will help, London is on course to pull ahead once again after 2025, together with their working-age population set to grow whilst the North’s is forecast to shrink. If the North is to keep up with the capital in the long-term, these promises must be actioned now.

“Despite the hopeful bounce-back predicted across the North, there must be an even spread of growth across the region: while our cities are major hubs of activity, decision-makers need to ensure towns also benefit and aren’t left behind. Long-term commitment and action are needed to create good jobs with decent wages, which will in-turn flow back into the local economy. Only with action will the maximum economic impact for the North be unlocked, and close the persistent productivity gap between north and south.”

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