Closing productivity gap ‘worth £11bn to Leeds region’

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Raising the industrial productivity of the Leeds City Region to match the national average would bring an extra £11bn a year into the area, it was claimed last night.

The region’s enterprise partnership, or LEP, which takes in the whole of West Yorkshire, York and parts of the north and south of the county, said its future path would have to be shaped in part by businesses based within it, and put out a call for feedback on its strategy for helping firms become more productive, while also reducing carbon emissions and improving public health.

It said business growth would “enable everyone in the region to feel the benefits of a strong economy through inclusive growth”.

But it added that evidence on how well the region was performing economically, and the extent of available skills, demonstrated a productivity gap between the North and South.

Roger Marsh, the business figure who chairs the LEP and the Government-funded board of 11 other such bodies formed to support its Northern Powerhouse initiative, said the Leeds region was “challenged” by an economy that saw “too many people still struggling to make ends meet”.

He said: “Leeds City Region is a near £70bn regional economy and we have the size and scale to play a leading role in the UK’s future competitiveness and prosperity.

“If we could boost the region’s productivity to the national average, that would represent an extra £11bn a year, bringing with it more better paid jobs.”

He said the organisation’s “local industrial strategy” was the region’s “opportunity to reshape our economy for the future and ensure everyone feels the benefits of a stronger, cleaner, more productive economy”.

His call for more public involvement came on the day the think tank IPPR North urged Boris Johnson to hand more powers to the region by embracing a radical plan that would see a so-called Council of the North and the devolution of a raft of economic powers to the region.

The new Prime Minister declared his support for the campaign to empower the North at the weekend.

All of England’s local enterprise partnerships have been asked to produce an industrial strategy for their area, setting out responses to four “grand challenges” laid out in the Government’s White Paper on industrial strategy.

They include adapting to the needs of an ageing society and adapting transport to an age of zero-emission and driverless vehicles, as well as the effects of data and artificial intelligence.

Mr Marsh’s organisation said it was organising a series of Town Hall events with councils across the region, and an online survey open to businesses and individuals.

Its report is due to be presented to Whitehall by the end of the year.