Regional recovery plans key for coronavirus bounceback, it is claimed, amid £1.7bn bid for South Yorkshire funds

A coronavirus recovery plan from Whitehall will “only repeat the mistakes of the past”, it has been claimed, as an ambitious £1.7bn bid was submitted to government to rebuild the economy in South Yorkshire.

In a move which comes just days after the devolution deal for the region was laid before parliament, Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis used the platform to ask the government to support a £1.7bn investment package to help the recovery from coronavirus.

He said: “The investment we are asking for will help not just rescue the South Yorkshire economy but level it up. It will back our people and our entrepreneurs when they need it the most.

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“A recovery plan driven from Whitehall will only repeat the mistakes of the past, perpetuating inequalities between London and the regions. That’s why I have called for a New Deal for the North – an ambitious programme of investment and devolution in a stronger, fairer, greener future for South Yorkshire and the North.

Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis. Photo: JPI MediaSheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis. Photo: JPI Media
Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis. Photo: JPI Media

“This plan is a first step towards that vision and an initial £1.7bn down payment will help lay the foundations for an economy built on high-skilled, high-productivity, high-paid jobs. We must take this opportunity to build back better, so we see not just recovery, but renewal.”

Mr Jarvis has written to both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor with his request, which he said would make the region’s economy stronger, fairer and greener.

The plans would include and training and jobs guarantee, an investment and innovation fund for businesses, and a boost for infrastructure including transport links, remodelling town centres, and building flood defences.

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It is predicted these measures would support more than 55,000 training and job opportunities, back 30,000 businesses, create 3,000 apprenticeships.

James Muir, Chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “We are determined to build back an economy that is stronger, more resilient and provides a higher proportion of higher skilled, better paid jobs.

“Our submission to government contains ambitious initiatives to stimulate investment in strengthening and growing businesses, as well as launching a broad programme of construction and infrastructure renovation.”

Beckie Hart, CBI Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Director, said: “Government must get ahead of the economic impact with the next wave of targeted support, recognising and responding to the local and regional priorities set out in this Renewal Action Plan. This includes increased funding for local leaders in order to accelerate infrastructure upgrades, and help create dynamic, local labour markets.”

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Earlier this week Boris Johnson announced a spending spree and a new “opportunity guarantee” to help the economy cope with the “aftershock” of the coronavirus crisis.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that jobs which existed at the start of the pandemic may be lost forever but said the new guarantee would ensure placements or apprenticeships for young people.

Mr Johnson promised his response would not be a return to the austerity that followed the financial crisis, but instead a stimulus package inspired by US president Franklin D Roosevelt, who led America out of the Great Depression with his New Deal in the 1930s.

Mr Johnson returned to the theme of his general election campaign, pledging to “level up” parts of the country that had been left behind while London and the South East prospered.

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In a speech in Dudley – a seat the Tories took from Labour – the PM promised to tackle the “unresolved challenges” of the last three decades, highlighting problems in building, social care, transport and the economy.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will set out a plan to support the economy through the first phase of the recovery next week, Mr Johnson said.