LEEDS HAS been identified as a key city to lead the charge for the regions and unlock growth outside of London, business leaders were told at the CBI conference in London.
A session looking at how the regions can share a bigger chunk of the UK’s prosperity found that Leeds has developed a great role model for other cities.
Director-general of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, said: “It’s really interesting what’s happening in Leeds. Tech companies are moving out of London to Leeds and they are attracting graduates and keeping them in Leeds.
“There is a great quality of life in Leeds.”
However the panel said that poor rail links between cities like Sheffield and Leeds are holding back the regions and further investment is needed.
“Travel between Sheffield and Leeds - I do not recommend it,” said Ms Fairbairn.
She added that cities outside London are changing rapidly and there is mass movement to cities as the UK becomes more urbanised.
In addition cities outside London need to think globally when they make their investment plans.
“We need to think about competition,” she told CBI delegates.
“It’s not just Leeds competing with Manchester, it’s Leeds competing with Stuttgart.”
She added that cities need to make the most of their universities. Yorkshire has a rich pool of talent with universities in Leeds, Sheffield and York seen as some of the most progressive in the country.
The panel said it is vital that cities maintain a “great relationship” with their high quality universities.
The CBI said that one of the most significant changes in cities outside London is the quality of their leadership.
“We have fantastic leaders in these cities, great leaders in cities like Manchester, Leeds and Cardiff,” said Ms Fairbairn.
She added that there are vast differences in productivity between regional cities, with Tower Hamlets being three times more productive than Blackpool.
“London is a fantastic world class city, but we need more growth outside London,” she said.
“Why is there such a gap between regions in the UK?”
She singled out the importance of schools and education if the regions are to challenge London’s dominance.
“The biggest driver of production is the qualifications of young people at the age of 16,” she said.
The panel heard that regional cities need the right built environment to encourage people to come and work and live there so the high quality of new buildings is essential.
“I believe that the gap between London and other cities can be narrowed,” concluded Ms Fairbairn.
The CBI said the vote to leave the EU highlights more starkly than ever the need to ensure all regions and nations are sharing in the UK’s prosperity.
It added that the UK needs innovative approaches to Government policy, technology and the urban environment to drive prosperity across the country.