EVEN THOUGH Theresa May’s reshuffle was overshadowed by Boris Johnson’s surprising appointment as Foreign Secretary and the decision to put Britain’s Brexit negotiations in the hand of East Riding political veteran David Davis, Andrew Percy’s promotion to the post of Northern Powerhouse Minister should not be under-estimated.
This is a plain-speaking politician whose Brigg and Goole seat adjoins Mr Davis’s Haltemprice and Howden constituency. His family roots are also ingrained in East Yorkshire. Born and educated in Hull, he attended university in York before returning to his home city where he was a councillor for 10 years before winning election to Westminster in 2010.
This formative experience can only stand Mr Percy in good stead. As one of only two Tory councillors in Hull for a long period, he will appreciate the importance of Mrs May’s One Nation agenda and the need to improve skills in those areas of the region with a history of economic deprivation. His input here should be invaluable.
Equally, it’s refreshing to hear the new Minister, in one of his first interventions, speaking so candidly about his determination to ensure that the Northern Powerhouse agenda extends beyond Manchester to the rest of the region. Not only do cities like Hull have untapped potential, but improved access to its resurgent docks is critical if more Yorkshire firms are to increase exports to the rest of the world.
And it’s not just urban areas – Mr Percy is right to recognise the opportunities that exist in rural Yorkshire. His job will not be without its challenges. Indeed one of his most significant tasks will be convincing sufficient colleagues to invest in the North’s infrastructure, but the initial direction of travel is encouraging and has the potential to deliver lasting change if the Minister is as good as his word. Time will tell.
Brexit bounce: Can Britain reap the rewards?
SO much for Project Fear. Despite the scaremongering of George Osborne, and others, the economy has not ground to a halt as a consequence of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Indeed growth between April and June exceeded expectations, albeit marginally, according to the latest GDP data.
It does not end here. Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, one of the corporate giants who opposed Brexit, now intends to pump £275m into its three manufacturing sites in Britain because it believes that the UK is an “attractive location” to do business and that the country continues to enjoy a “competitive corporate tax system”.
Perhaps other businesses will now realise the scale of opportunities that exist. Not only will the low value of the pound help to boost exports but the competitive cost of borrowing makes it possible for companies to invest in new products and infrastructure.
Helpfully, the importance of this was highlighted by Gerald Jennings, president of Leeds Chamber in a keynote address to his organisation. Though he acknowledged the prevailing uncertainty, and unanswered questions, as the Government prepares its Brexit negotiating stance, he said it is imperative that Britain does not talk itself into a recession.
He’s right. All those who voted to leave the European Union on June 23 clearly have more faith in Great Britain plc, and this country’s ability to retain its status as an economic superpower, than those politicians who believed that the UK would be doomed if it backed Brexit. If more firms follow the positive lead of GlaxoSmithKline, and actually start talking up Britain, the whole country will reap the rewards.
Making a splash
A RESURGENT Scarborough certainly knows how to make a splash – the resort’s £14m waterpark is another vote of confidence in a town which was the holiday destination in the Edwardian era.
If a new generation of families choose to visit the town and make the most of its new water feature, the whole of Scarborough’s leisure and retail economy will enjoy the ripple effects.
There’s just one catch. Road links to Scarborough, most notably on the main A64, are simply not good enough. Despite promises from David Cameron and others caught up in traffic jams in the past, progress remains painfully slow.
For some families in this region, it is probably quicker to fly to France or Spain than drive from the West Riding to Yorkshire’s premier resort, a state of affairs that needs to be rectified urgently when this county gets more decision-making powers of its own.