THE Yorkshire Post’s “Give Us a Fair Deal” campaign has exposed the risks to the Government’s dream of closing the North-South divide.
It has shown some of the ways in which the region is getting a raw deal, putting the future prosperity of Yorkshire and the Humber and the success of the wider UK economy at risk. Young people are wondering how and where they will find a job, a toiling transport system leaves trains overcrowded and roads congested, and in too many parts of the region skills levels are poor.
But across the region, a passion exists to create a prosperous future with quality jobs, where the Yorkshire economy is buoyant, a leader in new growth industries and contributing to the success of the entire country.
In our pamphlet, which we reproduce here, we – with input from businesses, agencies and the public across Yorkshire – offer 60 ideas which to help realise that vision. Some are major policy shifts, require significant investment and may take years to deliver – others are far simpler and quicker yet could make a great impact. Some are aimed at Government, others at councils, businesses and agencies in the region.
This is not a fanciful wish list or an extension of the begging bowl – it is a bank of ideas to which we ask Government and those in Yorkshire to respond positively and help build a better future for everyone in the region.
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OUR CALL TO GOVERNMENT
• A fair slice of transport funding for Yorkshire after the huge bias towards London over the past decade.
• Electrify trans-Pennine rail routes to allow for more reliable, quicker and more frequent journeys to improve business and community links between Yorkshire and other northern regions, and the Midland Mainline, to speed up journeys between London and South Yorkshire.
• See through the Government’s commitment to build a high-speed rail network linking Yorkshire with London, Birmingham and Manchester by 2032, with both northern branches built at the same time.
• Allow Yorkshire to benefit from high-speed rail more quickly by linking the first phase of the route – from London to Birmingham – to the Midland Mainline.
• Improve links to Leeds-Bradford Airport with a tram-train system and prioritise improvements to the A63 in hull to build better links to the port and ease congestion on city roads.
• Reduce or abolish the Humber Bridge tolls, a move which is calculated to be worth tens of millions of pounds to the economy.
• Provide extra carriages to ease overcrowding on commuter routes in Yorkshire’s cities.
Review the funding system for concessionary bus fares to ease the impact on councils which are forced to cut services elsewhere to fill a budget gap.
• Accelerate the roll-out of next generation broadband – which has the power to transform our rural economies and improve lives – to stop remote areas continuing to be left behind. ensure every home and business – not just 90 per cent – have access by 2015.
• Work to improve and enhance broadband infrastructure for business parks and industrial estates to address business complaints that connection are too often patchy or poor, as well as improving electricity infrastructure.
• Give councils more power to raise their own funding if they wish to pursue important infrastructure projects which cannot be funded centrally or privately.
• Allow northern councils to trial new ideas, such as municipal bonds. Extend the Regional Growth Fund for future years to offer support for projects and infrastructure which can create private sector jobs and drive forward the economic recovery.
• Maintain the National Insurance holiday for the first 10 employees taken on by new firms outside London and the South east beyond its current three year period, but promote it more intensively to encourage wider take-up.
• A lower VAT for start ups in Yorkshire for the first three years, providing a kickstart for new businesses that have shied away from launching at a time when VAT is at such a high level.
• Encourage the development of a new kind of financial instrument to help building societies boost their funding. The member-owned lending model, which has its roots in the North, needs better access to capital and is unable to raise cash through rights issues or share issues but is a vital source of competition to the big banks.
• Focused package of support to encourage business start-ups and self-employment, as well as assistance to small and medium firms, in areas where the “business birth rate” is particularly low, often in areas previously dominated by large industries like coal and steel.
• Abolish – for a time at least – the rates system which penalises developers who cannot fill commercial property buildings immediately.
• Extend enterprise Zones to more areas if the trailblazers – in Leeds and Sheffield city regions – show early signs of success ensuring jobs created are new rather than being stolen from other areas. Make Bradford city centre a priority to encourage the completion of developments which have been stalled for too long.
Manufacturing, training and development
• Government funding for manufacturing and construction apprenticeships, aimed at students being put off university by the level of fees who could learn a profession offering a job at the end. Also consider creating a stream of high Status Apprenticeships, focusing on high skilled engineering, to target the brightest and the best who might otherwise go into areas like finance and law. enhanced and continued tax incentives or Capital Allowances and Research & Development Tax Credits for investment in process improvement or product development by small and medium-sized firms, particularly in manufacturing, to prevent UK firms being put at a disadvantage to those in other countries.
• Consider National Insurance and tax incentives for companies who take on apprentices.
• Give specific Ministers responsibility for championing and representing specific areas – including a Yorkshire Minister if necessary – and championing investment rather than relying on a single Cities Minister to represent all England’s major urban areas.
• Make Yorkshire the home of the Green Investment Bank. The large number of green energy projects across the region and the desire to rebalance the economy make Yorkshire the ideal headquarters.
• Along with local councils, make sure there are no obstacles in the way of offshore wind manufacturers locating new factories along the Humber The creation of a manufacturing “hub” could make Yorkshire a national and global exporter of this technology and revive its industrial base.
• Ensure sufficient subsidies and long term certainty over funding for green power technologies with long-term certainty over funding to convince blue chip investors to commit to multi-billion pound Yorkshire projects such as Drax’s biomass conversion and Yorkshire’s carbon pipeline.
• Give Yorkshire funding for at least two of the Government’s four Carbon Capture and Storage demonstration projects. There are already three well-developed proposals for CCS schemes at Hatfield, Drax and Killingholme.
• Locate the forthcoming Offshore Renewables Technology Innovation Centre in the region, in recognition of its close proximity to the largest wind farms and long history of engineering prowess. The move could help the region become a world leader in the development of this technology.
• Take advantage of the lower rents and living costs of Yorkshire to bring jobs to the region when departments or organisations are moved out of London to save money.
• A Government focus on finding match-funding for grants from the European Regional Development Fund to prevent cash earmarked for Yorkshire being sent back to Brussels.
• Give areas outside London a bigger slice of Lottery funding after the 2012 Olympics, to make up for the slice of money denied to them to pay for the Games. The money could be prioritised on youth work and getting young people into jobs.
• Encourage individuals and authorities to renovate empty homes by making VAT reclaimable, as it is for new-build properties.
• A review of the formulas for distributing public funding, so the higher cost of delivering services in rural areas like North Yorkshire is recognised when it comes to health and policing.
• Give the supermarket ombudsman powers to enforce fair farm gate prices.
• Extend the fuel duty discounts for remote areas – due to be trialled on the islands and highlands – to rural parts of Yorkshire to help residents and businesses for whom vehicles are a daily necessity.
• Use legislation if necessary to finally and firmly close the labelling loophole which allows cheap foreign food imports to be passed off as high-quality British produce so the region’s farmers can operate on a level playing field.
• Government to set a stronger example of buying local produce. New buying standards introduced by the Department for environment, Food and Rural Affairs risk failing to help farmers because departments can continue buying foreign food if it is cheaper.
• Carry out an urgent review of the Barnett Formula to introduce a fairer system for funding the devolved nations and stop extra money funding Scottish services at the expense of those in Yorkshire.
• Despite the need for more homes to be built to cater for the growing population, protection of the green belt to ensure quality of life is not sacrificed.
• Bursaries for local graduates who stay or return to the region to set up a business, with support and mentoring for a modest investment to stop the “brain drain” of talent to other regions.
• Target more of the Research Council’s funding towards excellent faculties in Yorkshire universities which are linked to growth areas, such as healthcare in Leeds, life sciences in York and advanced engineering in Sheffield.
• Expand University Technical Colleges to equip youngsters with the skills needed to join the workforce.
• Provide public support to boost private investment in promoting Yorkshire as a tourism destination, allowing it to compete rather than losing out against the financial might of Visit Scotland.
• Consider a temporary boost for the tourism industry as the economy recovers with a lower VAT rate, as has been introduced in other European countries.
• Establish a “Yorkshire Giving Pledge” – a cash pot to match-fund contributions from businesses and philanthropic individuals to encourage giving to the voluntary sector – to support charities feeling the pinch from funding cuts.
OUR CALL TO COUNCILS, TRANSPORT AUTHORITIES, OTHER PUBLIC AGENCIES AND BUSINESS IN YORKSHIRE
• Provide more cycle lanes in Yorkshire cities, both easing congestion on the road and encouraging more active lifestyles, and follow London’s example in establishing cycle hire schemes.
• Speedy implementation of “smart card” ticketing systems on the region’s public transport, so passengers can move more easily between different modes of travel without battling a baffling array of tickets.
• Trade and business bodies to forge closer links with schools to tap into the brightest and best students.
• Public sector organisations to open up more contract opportunities for local firms, particularly small and medium-sized businesses.
• The creation of an Advanced Medical Park, to make Yorkshire a centre for research and development in the growing health and medical sector.
• A sustained community-based youth volunteer programme, giving young people a stake in their community and developing their skills and self-esteem through social, educational and environmental programmes.
Training and Development
• More businesses to follow the lead of Morrisons in financing students to go through university, helping those who may otherwise be put off studying by the level of debt they will build up.
• Promote business twinning between Yorkshire cities, towns and villages with similar ones abroad, encouraging trade, swapping business practices and ideas and getting the whole business community involved in another culture to learn new approaches.
• An export promotion and mentoring scheme, with successful exporters passing on their knowledge and advice to those looking to break into overseas markets where economic growth rates continue to be high.
• Stimulate relationships between companies based close to each other to trade goods and services with each other, cutting carbon footprints and building better links between firms.
• Local enterprise Partnerships to unite to promote Yorkshire on big issues which can benefit the whole of the region, such as transport and renewable energy.
• Emphasise and grow Leeds city region’s position as the UK’s second-biggest financial services hub behind the City in order to make the region attractive to the professional services and legal sectors as well.
• Good quality green and open space in the centres of all our cities to improve quality of life for residents and make a good impression on visitors.
• Bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire, by allowing the region to host a stage of the event giving the region‘s stunning scenery worldwide exposure.
• Make culture a key part of all regeneration, seizing on the example of the North east where The Angel of the North has inspired wider investment into the arts. Create iconic public art by key routes and in our cities to make Yorkshire an attractive place to live and invest in.
• Greater use of empty spaces to house arts organisations and installations, improving securing for the buildings owners, entertainment for residents and visitors and opportunity for hard-up artists and organisations.