Foreign investment urged to bring benefits to region

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THE Government has been urged to target foreign investment at parts of Yorkshire rather than seeing it flow into the South East.

Labour MP Angela Smith made the plea in a Westminster debate yesterday as she called for more action to help areas with high levels of unemployment and frail economies, such as Barnsley.

She said UK Trade and Investment, which is responsible for attracting foreign investment to this country, was perceived to target the South East and should instead focus on areas most in need of jobs and which have been hit hardest by the recession.

“We would like to see the Government prioritising Yorkshire and Barnsley when it comes to inward investment,” said the Penistone and Stocksbridge MP.

“There’s a feeling UKTI prioritises the South East first when it comes to encouraging inward investment from foreign funds. Why don’t they put Barnsley and Yorkshire first for a change?”

Responsibility for attracting foreign investment to the region passed to UKTI after the Government decided to close down Yorkshire Forward and the other English regional development agencies, and MPs have been keen to ensure it is championing all parts of the country.

Ms Smith said more help was needed for places like Barnsley which suffer higher levels of unemployment and have never recovered from the collapse of the mining industry.

She warned that nationalising the Business Link service had been a blow and called for the reinstatement of a grants scheme to allow small firms to invest in plant.

She said Barnsley was a proud town which had depended on coal to provide thousands of well-paid manual jobs. It was hit hard when that industry disappeared and the recent downturn had also hit it hard. “The town needs so much more help to recover from its industrial past.”