Yorkshire’s thriving economy is a UK asset the next Government must nurture.
The region has the country’s fastest-growing digital sector, is home to a manufacturing base 50 per cent above the UK average and can boast that more jobs were created in Yorkshire last year than the whole of France.
But that success needs backing to continue, with the red tape and taxes facing Yorkshire firms hindering the region’s growth.
The call for a fundamental reform of Business Rates is a strong one. The Treasury takes in some £25bn a year from the rates, making the UK heavily reliant on the tax. But the demands of the rate are sometimes too much for small or struggling businesses.
“Business Rates, in their current form, are not fit for purpose” was the blunt but accurate assessment from the Commons Business Select Committee when it looked at the issue.
The committee made clear there was a growing need to impress upon the Treasury and the Department for Communities and Local Government the importance of the retail sector as a driver of economic recovery. This is especially pertinent for small and medium-sized businesses.
Access to finance is still cited as a key issue for many firms – we just need to ensure that it gets through to those that need it.Andrew Lindsay, chair of West Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce
A lower business rate for new firms would be a good starting point for the next Government.
Helping new firms nationwide is just part of the answer to growing the UK economy; the next step has to be for a return of regional business incentives.
In financial services alone, accountants PwC said the there could be £62bn across the UK by 2020 if the Government took steps to encourage banks to grow their presence outside of London.
PwC estimates that this would create an extra £2.4bn in Yorkshire, including money from firms investing in new buildings and R&D.
Regional growth incentives under the current Government have not done enough to incentivise investment outside of London.
The flagship Regional Growth Fund has faced a difficult time. It has helped out some firms, but not got through to others.
Andrew Lindsay, Chairman of West Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, summed up business lending when he said: “Access to finance is still cited as a key issue for many firms and plans to pump more money into lending are a good thing – we just need to ensure that it gets through to those that need it as quickly as possible and not get stuck in the system.”
As the Public Accounts Committee found last year that despite “large sums made available for promoting economic growth locally, little money has actually reached businesses”.
When the coalition scrapped the Grants for Business Investment scheme it made rebalancing the economy a harder task.
The next Government should review this decision. Alongside this should come a commitment to expanding the successful business growth fund.
Another successful policy which should be built on is the return of Enterprise Zones. Across Yorkshire firms have been incentivised to create the advanced manufacturing jobs which will play a vital role in safeguarding the region’s economic future.
European funding has also played a key role in helping grow the region’s economy. The Government centralised decision making on how the funds can be administered when it axed the regional development agencies.
The next Government should ensure funding distribution returns to the region.
IN FULL: OUR YORKSHIRE MANIFESTO...