I HAVE read the Yorkshire Post’s “Give Us a Fair Deal” campaign and I understand your concerns. You’re right that the gap between North and South is unfair and unsustainable. I get your frustration to see things change.
But I believe it’s wrong to say this Government isn’t giving Yorkshire a fair deal. Of course there are tough decisions that we’ve had to make on spending, in every part of this country. Fail to get a grip on our debts and there will be no growth – just higher inflation, rising interest rates and falling confidence.
Look at what’s happening in countries like Greece and Spain. We’re out of that danger zone today because we have taken action – and that’s why we’ve got to stick to this course. Yorkshire’s economy will only prosper in the long-term if our national economy is sound.
But just because the public finances are tight, that doesn’t mean we’re putting our plans to rebalance the economy on hold. Far from it. I am determined that we should drive growth right across our country. Yorkshire has a proud history of industry, of producing the goods the world wants to buy. The future can be even better. Now let me tell you the five things we must do to get there.
First, we need to make it much easier for people in Yorkshire to start and grow businesses. Ultimately it won’t be Ministers who drive growth. It will be the student in Wakefield with the great business idea, the entrepreneur in Sheffield who wants to grow their company – so we’re getting behind them.
We’ve cut corporation tax; exempted small businesses from new domestic regulation and absolved new businesses in Yorkshire from paying employment taxes on their first employees. And to spark business growth in this area, we’re rolling out new Enterprise Zones where there’ll be cuts in business rates, access to super-fast broadband, and help to speed up planning approvals. Leeds and Sheffield will be among the first of these new zones to start.
Second, we need to make sure those businesses have the infrastructure they need. I know the Yorkshire Post has argued that Yorkshire is getting a rough deal on transport, but I would dispute that. Since the election, we’ve invested tens of millions in Yorkshire projects, from improvements to the M62, to a new entrance for Leeds station, to additional rail carriages on the lines from Skipton, Ilkley and Doncaster to Leeds.
Then, of course, there’s high speed rail, which has the potential to deliver huge economic benefits for Yorkshire – so I’d very much encourage those of you who support it to make your views known before the consultation closes at the end of this week.
The Yorkshire Post’s campaign also raised concerns about funding for tourism. This is a crucial industry and we’re committed to supporting it. Over the next four years, VisitBritain is running a huge campaign to build on excitement around the Olympics, backed by a £100m marketing fund. This is a major chance for Yorkshire to ramp up its tourist numbers. In addition, Welcome to Yorkshire is receiving about £10m this year – funding that is not available to other English regions.
Third, we need to make sure the right people are in charge of driving growth in Yorkshire. In the old days, government ministers would swoop into an area and dole out money to be spent exactly as they saw fit. Billions were poured in, but the gap between North and South just got wider.
So with new local enterprise partnerships we’re putting you – business owners, community leaders – in the driving seat. Already, Yorkshire is pioneering this new way of getting things done. Leeds city region LEP has ambitions to give the local economy a £7bn boost over the coming years. Sheffield city region LEP is planning to become a centre for advanced manufacturing and low carbon industries. I strongly believe that by putting power in local hands we can unleash the ideas, passion and energy we need to power up local economies.
Fourth, we need a powerful voice for Yorkshire right in the heart of Government. That’s why I have created the new job of Minister for Cities. The new Minister, Greg Clark MP, is going to be holding meetings with Ministers in charge of business, trade, transport and from the Treasury, to get things done for the biggest cities in our country – and two of the cities on his priority list are Leeds and Sheffield.
Fifth, we need to recognise that certain areas need a lift through targeted funding. That’s what the new £1.4bn Regional Growth Fund is all about. Several Yorkshire projects have already been conditionally allocated funding, including support for the construction of the link road between Doncaster and Robin Hood Airport, a new Haribo manufacturing plant in Normanton, and more than 800 new houses, of which over 200 will be affordable housing, in South Wakefield.
This is about driving growth in those areas that have been starved of private sector investment for too long, and already we’re seeing the benefits.
So I have listened to the Yorkshire Post’s concerns, and want to reassure you of this – we are passionately committed to driving growth in every town, city and community in our country.
Over the coming months and years, I want you to hold me to that.
David Cameron is the Prime Minister