Timothy Kirkhope: The North doesn’t have to beg to carry on thriving

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THE Government has come under attack for supposedly directing EU funds originally designated for regions in the North of England to Scotland in a bid to win the Scots over before the upcoming independence referendum.

Labour and Lib Dem MEPs claim that Yorkshire and the Humber is to miss out on tens of millions of pounds, even though they claim, according to some EU statistics, that it is apparently in much greater need of the funds than Scotland.

This narrow and unhelpfully defeatist approach ignores the reality that we have the fastest growing region in England, according to new figures.

Data by Lloyds TSB Yorkshire and Humber PMI (Purchasing Managers’ Indexes) showed that the rate of expansion in private sector output in April was the strongest in 15 months.

The Labour and Lib Dem MEPs have made out that the whole Yorkshire and Humber region is one of nothing but deprivation, doomed to even steeper decline if it does not receive its EU funding or more government backing.

Yet, if we look at the figures now, it is clear that we are seeing improvements to our economy which well surpass the UK average. Another report indicated that Yorkshire and Humber is the most likely region to be creating jobs over the next 12 months with 68 per cent of companies stating new positions will be in the pipeline this year – up from 54 per cent a year ago. In London and the South East, this figure is due to fall from 70 to 54 per cent.

In further positive news, the majority – 84 per cent – of businesses in Yorkshire and Humber are not planning any job losses this year. And the good news for UK plc is that the research also revealed that 71 per cent of mid-sized businesses are creating jobs this year, up on the previous year’s 65 per cent.

Tony Walsh, managing director for Barclays Corporate Bank in the North, said: “Businesses in the area are also more open to hiring ex-public sector workers, compared to last year, which is good news as the ongoing rebalancing of the economy means many have to seek opportunities in the private sector.” Well said.

The idea that we in Yorkshire 
should now be begging for the support of the EU, or of our own Government, in order to thrive is not what our region is about.

Yorkshire and the Humber has a 
long and proud history of private enterprise and entrepreneurship. By encouraging more freedom for businesses, and educating and encouraging our young people to be ambitious, the region will continue to improve. The parts of Yorkshire, particularly in the South, which have been struggling, will never recover if our politicians solely continue to grumble, denigrate and beg for money.

We should, of course, look for appropriate funding and grants to help our small and medium-sized businesses with their investment programmes. We are entitled to get back some of our money invested in the EU, and to use it in this way. That is a different matter and I have spoken on the new EU proposals for our region for 2014-2020 in the last few days at a meeting in the House of Commons. These proposals look exciting and challenging.

But we must be more ambitious. We shall not just sit around and wait for funding to come our way before we start our enterprises. We should be more proactive in making sure that any funding that we do receive is not wasted, as has sadly been the case on occasions over the last two decades.

When the state or the EU steps in, we must invest wisely, injecting funds into those private businesses which are already feeding the regional economy, as well as directing funds towards helping young entrepreneurs for the future.

Ultimately, we should believe 
that with less red tape and fewer regulations, and with less EU and UK Government interference allowing more freedom for private businesses to open and develop, Yorkshire and the Humber will continue its successful economic development.