Having things based in Yorkshire is not enough if mindsets do not change too - Mark Casci

Ever since I was a small boy I wanted to work at The Yorkshire Post.

On Saturday mornings I would accompany my mum or dad to the local newsagent to pick up a copy of whatever football magazine I was reading at the time and I would on occasion observe big cars parked outside, belonging to successful people living in the North Yorkshire countryside who had travelled into Redcar to pick up some key items for the weekend.

Invariably among these items was a copy of The Yorkshire Post.

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It instilled in me at a young age that this was a newspaper read by serious people.

The British Business Bank is based in Sheffield.

As I grew older many things attracted me to the title; its prestige, its history and heritage, the quality of its journalists.

Perhaps above all of these qualities was its ability to speak forcefully and clearly for the region, a powerful campaigning voice that championed the region’s strengths and relentlessly demanded that it be given its fair share.

It is a mission that continues to this day and, during my nearly 13 years as a staffer, we have seen the Tour de France, Channel 4, jobs, investment and devolved power come to Yorkshire.

As the paper’s business editor I will always welcome and argue for any investment into the region, without fail.

Mindsets need to change in the region.

However, in recent days it has become clear to me that sometimes campaigning for things to come to Yorkshire can sometimes not be enough.

In last weekend’s edition of The Yorkshire Post I ran a story about how a Government scheme to loan cash to high-growth businesses had disproportionately benefited firms in the South East.

The British Business Bank’s Future Fund, launched by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in April, was designed to issue convertible loans to UK companies with good potential whose operations had been impacted by Covid.

It closed to new applicants and analysis of its lending showed the usual disparity in success between North and South we have grown accustomed to.

Region will face an uphill struggle if we do not band together.

Of the £1.2bn worth of convertible loans issued, £33.7m went to Yorkshire firms, as compared with £720.1m to London-based companies. Just 11 per cent went to firms based in the North of England.

Now it would be easy to chalk this one up to another London-based financial institution keeping its funding local and ignoring the huge potential of the North if it were not for two important facts.

First of all, the British Business Bank is not headquartered in London but, in fact, right here in Yorkshire, with its base located at Steel City House, Sheffield.

Secondly, the rate of applications from this region were significantly smaller than those from the South East. For the Home Nations, it was even smaller.

Redressing the North-South divide has been discussed for generations and Government after Government has pledged with varying degrees of sincerity to make tackling our uneven country a priority.

This current Government made distributing power and funding more equitably a manifesto commitment that delivered a handsome majority. But while moves such as the British Business Bank being based in Sheffield, the National Infrastructure Bank being located in Leeds and other such votes of confidence in the region will always be welcome, perhaps we need to play our own role in putting ourselves forward.

I am not naïve enough to think that one round of loan applications is emblematic of a wider malaise of Northern ambition, I am also aware that Yorkshire is home to a plethora of high-growth firms that could and should have probably applied to this fund.

Having stuff based here is only one part of the issue. Mindset is also key.

As we begin rebuilding our economy we must ensure that Government pays as much attention to Kingston upon Humber as it does Kingston upon Thames. It should commit to a massive patient capital fund to grow and decarbonise the economy with the North as its centrepiece for investment.

But we should also remember ourselves to never stop shouting for what is right, never stop demanding an equal share and never fail to celebrate what we offer.

And sometimes that means you have got to be in it to win it.