What National Infrastructure Bank will mean for Leeds after Budget boost – James Lewis

AFTER years of shouting about all that Leeds and the wider region has to offer, it’s not just our excellent football team that’s making the national news. In my first full week as leader of Leeds Council, we are welcoming the Government’s choice of Leeds as the home of its first UK infrastructure bank.

Leeds will be home of the first ever UK infrastructure bank.

For so long now, there has been an ever growing need in Yorkshire for opportunities and investment to be spread out across the UK. The North has so much to offer and we have fought passionately for a shift in the tradition of London being the first choice for major investment opportunities.

It’s great to see that start to pay off, with Leeds selected as the location for 
the new infrastructure bank and Darlington securing the new Treasury North.

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The council, along with businesses and communities across the city, has worked hard for a long time, despite cuts to government funding, to make Leeds such an attractive destination for businesses and investors.

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Because of that hard work, huge names such as Channel 4 and British Library North have seen the potential of the city and we’re thrilled to add the new infrastructure bank to that list.

Such big names joining the city is a fantastic vote of confidence and a 
massive endorsement for everything those of us who have been flying the flag for Leeds.

The National Investment Bank will cement Leeds’ place as the biggest financial centre outside of London, and the North itself will become an even bigger player in the nation’s finances.

Beginning this spring, it is set to have an initial capitalisation of £12bn and is expected to support at least £40bn of total investment in infrastructure.

The new bank is set to play a key role in the Government’s plans to transform the UK’s economic infrastructure and will invest in public and private projects to finance green jobs.

We are passionate about the climate change agenda in Leeds and it was announced earlier this year that the city would become home to a new UK centre for driving global green finance and investment.

It is therefore fitting that the bank will also be based here.

As part of the council’s commitments to invest in green jobs, earlier this week we announced a £100m investment in measures to help tenants save money and cut carbon by improving energy efficiency over the next five years.

Once fully built out, our district heating networks alone will save a combined 11,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases every year, further demonstrating our commitment to tackling climate change and this is already making a difference to reducing fuel bills for tenants.

As well as this, our region is already home to a broad spectrum of financial services organisations, a substantial professional services sector and major tech employers.

The financial technology (fintech) sector in the region is strong and has continued to develop and grow during the pandemic.

We’re so proud of our diverse population, and our thriving communities will ensure the new bank has access to a talented workforce that almost exactly reflects the mix of the whole of the UK.

Leeds has remained resilient throughout the last decade, with a strong pipeline of new inclusive developments in the city and strong partnerships across the globe.

It’s no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has bruised the city’s economy, but there is every reason why Leeds will bounce back and the new bank is a positive addition to the city, encouraging more jobs and growth within the region.

I hope that this addition will bring us a future of working in partnership with central government to unlock the economic potential in Leeds and the North, but that can happen only by putting more trust in the hands of local councils, businesses and communities.

As I embark on my journey as leader of Leeds Council, my aim isn’t for us to return to where we were pre-Covid. Leeds is continually growing and transforming and I think we can be even better, with more opportunities than ever before, higher outcomes in education and skills, a transformational mass transit system across West Yorkshire and a economy that is inclusive and benefits all our communities.

James Lewis is the newly elected leader of Leeds Council. He is a Labour councillor.

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