Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis told The Yorkshire Post that the Covid-19 crisis meant that the country needed economic renewal rather than an economic recovery and said that upgrading and enhancing infrastructure spending in the North could help provide employment and generate income to get the nation up-and-running on a more equitable basis.
With Covid-19 crisis having led to the majority of Britain’s economy being closed for business, a substantial downturn is predicted which will imperil the livelihoods of millions.
However, Mr Jarvis said when the public health crisis begins to abate would be precisely the time to invest in transport links and flood defences.
His views come as the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP) reveals a new strategy to address significant gaps between North and South to help lead the entire nation back to growth.
The partnership, made up of some of the North’s leading business and civic leaders, has recommended five suggestions to help rebalance the economy and better reflect the modern world.
Its suggested areas are:
- Commit to improve transport infrastructure projects that are shovel ready
- Address skill shortages in the north to create new employment opportunities and develop a modern workforce,
- Provide extra teaching time to school children who have missed out on vital lessons during lockdown and create an enhanced Pupil Premium.
- Develop green energy in the North to safeguard the environment and create high paying jobs and world-leading technologies.
- Commit to faster broadband in every home and business.
Henri Murison, director of NPP, said: “This is about giving short-term stimulus and long-term productivity enhancement.
“This is fundamentally the right way to achieve what we need which is, once the initial medical emergency is over, to properly deliver economic rebalancing which in the end will fundamentally recoordinate the way the economy works, unlock economic growth that otherwise the UK would not have got.”
Responding to the plan Mr Jarvis, the only metro mayor in Yorkshire, said: “Recovery is not the right word for what the nation will need because we don’t want to go back to where we were before.
“This has to be about economic renewal and the response to the crisis needs I think first and foremost to unlock the huge potential that we know exists in the North of England.
“When I spoke to the Prime Minister a few days ago I pressed him upon the fact that he and his Government had been elected on a levelling up agenda and on commitment to support the Northern Powerhouse.
“I pressed the point that that commitment is more important now than it was previously.
“Although there are obvious massive challenges there are also opportunities as well so we need to ensure that the Government continues with the planned investment it had for the North of England.
“We need to see that investment coming forward and in order to get the Northern economy back on its feet again before we can ever power forward we are going to see a very significant fiscal stimulus coming from the Government.
“Infrastructure is our road map out of the economic crisis.
“Now is precisely the time where we need to be investing. Not just in terms of the value of having that infrastructure improved but from the benefits of the process of construction.”
He added: “I don’t want everyone to forget about the fact that much of South Yorkshire was under flood water at the back end of last year. There is millions of pounds worth of investment that needs to go into our flood defences.
“Actually, quite a good way of doing that and getting the construction industry back up and running is to bring forward some of those works. But also doing something that will need to be done anyway.”