THE Government has promised to ‘sell the North to the rest of the world’ through the region’s powerful financial services industry.
Speaking to business leaders in Leeds yesterday, the Northern Powerhouse Minister James Wharton admitted that the Government had been guilty of a London-centric approach to attracting investment in the past but promised to actively promote the North to global financial companies.
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) is to work with local government, industry and education establishments to promote a number of regional clusters as ‘financial centres of excellence’, including Yorkshire where Leeds is the UK’s second financial capital. In 2012, financial services firm across the Leeds and Sheffield city regions contributed £14.06bn to the UK economy.
Addressing the UKTI event, hosted by TD Direct Investing, Mr Wharton said: “UKTI is going to start to look at where we can sell the north of England to the world. We’ve done that a bit in the past but too often investing in the UK and buying products in the UK meant doing business with London and London alone.”
Mr Wharton highlighted that two thirds of people employed by the finance sector in the UK were based outside of the capital. The financial services industry in the Northern Powerhouse boasts more than 400,000 jobs.
Several key players in the sector are choosing to ‘near-shore’ their services, moving jobs both of out London and back to the UK from overseas. The Minister highlighted PwC’s expansion in Leeds, now employing over 700 people, and Investec’s launch of an investment banking operation in Leeds.
“We will continue to work with local leaders and the business community to make the region even more of a magnet to the financial services sector,” he said.
However, recently business leaders have said that without improved flood defences it will be hard to attract jobs and investment to the region.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post after the event, Mr Wharton said: “We have seen a lot of support going out to local authorities and communities that have been affected by flooding. We are still in the recovery phase.”
He added: “As that process begins to settle we absolutely need to look at what should be done on top of the record spending that we’re going to see on flood defences this parliament to make sure we give the best possible protection to those who need it.”
Meanwhile, he urged Yorkshire to agree a devolution deal. The Chancellor has struck agreements with groups of councils across the North, including South Yorkshire, to hand over powers and cash from Whitehall.
But West, North and East Yorkshire have failed to reach agreement as councils argue over the best way forward.
“There is a challenge now to Yorkshire as a whole to get around the table, to find agreement and to deliver on this agenda,” he said.
“I would like to see that done but it’s got to come from the bottom up. It’s up to local leadership to follow through this process and reach an agreement.”