Our plan to get Yorkshire back to work – Barry Sheerman and Kevin Hollinrake

AS we emerge from lockdown, it is time to look to the future and develop a plan for the region’s recovery.

A blueprint for the region's recovery has been published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire.

To support this, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire today publishes its proposals to ensure our economy is restored to firing on all cylinders.

At its heart, coronavirus has been a health catastrophe and we extend out sympathies to all those affected and grieving the loss of a loved one. We need now to do all we can to make sure it isn’t also an economic catastrophe.

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Over 600,000 people across Yorkshire and the Humber have been furloughed. Those in receipt of out of work benefits has increased substantially. Yorkshire’s tourism, worth £9bn a year, has been especially badly hit.

Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman is a co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire.

Our universities, creative industries and manufacturing sectors have felt the brunt of the brakes being put on the economy. In one assessment, the law firm Irwin Mitchell has warned that the region is “likely to be one of the most affected regions in the UK”.

We need a multi-faceted response if we are to ensure the region can play its full part in getting the UK moving again.

The Government should double down on its commitment to levelling up the UK. Practically that means striving to secure devolution deals in North and East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire following those already agreed in West and South Yorkshire.

It means also appointing a government Minister to be given direct responsibility for working with the Board made up of the region’s council leaders to develop a coherent and practical plan for the region.

To what extent can green energy power the region's recovery?

The Communities Secretary is currently co-chairing a transition board for London. Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire deserves the same level of attention.

We need a green recovery, one that builds on the work already under way so this region plays its full part in the UK becoming net zero by 2050. This should include a programme to improve the energy efficiency of the region’s housing stock with work to develop the green skills needed to make this happen.

Alongside this, we should use the recovery as an opportunity to invest in green transport including low-carbon buses and the infrastructure needed to make electric cars more widely used.

Ministers should change the way investment decisions are made, with a focus on levelling up the country and reducing the gaps in investment between vulnerable and reliant areas.

Thirsk and Malton mP Kevin Hollinrake is a co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire.

Our world-leading universities should be given the support that their importance to the region deserves, recognising the particular challenges they have faced as students left prior to lockdown and a substantial fall in international students coming next year.

Alongside this, Ministers should ensure that research and development investment is more fairly spread across the UK. We were worried to read an analysis by NESTA which suggested that this region had among the lowest levels of investment in R&D of anywhere in the country.

The recovery should put employment and skills at its heart, with the development of a future jobs programme and a skills guarantee for our young people, supporting their transition to employment.

An adult learning account could be developed to support lifelong learning and upskilling whilst greater support should be put in place to address barriers to training and skills development. This should include childcare support and help to access public transport.

We need a package that continues to support the region’s businesses. Whilst Government grants and loans to support them have been welcomed, one-off pots of money will not be enough. Funding – and the powers needed – should be provided long term for local authorities to administer business grants and loans which could be provided on condition of firms delivering wider socio-economic benefits such as taking on apprentices.

Our tourism industry too, upon which the region is so reliant, needs particular attention. We welcome the recently published recovery plan developed by Welcome to Yorkshire but argue that the Government should give serious consideration to cutting VAT on tourism to five per cent.

Throughout the pandemic it has been heartening to see the fortitude shown by those who live and work across Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire. It is that spirit, together with a clear and deliverable plan, that will ensure that the region will come back stronger than ever.

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James Mitchinson

Editor