Regional inequalities must be tackled by the Government in "new vision for economy", says business leader

Regions of the UK should be “liberated” to help the economy prosper in the years ahead, a business leader is urging.

The speech comes after weeks of controversy surrounding the government’s levelling up fund, announced in last month’s budget by Rishi Sunak (pictured.
The speech comes after weeks of controversy surrounding the government’s levelling up fund, announced in last month’s budget by Rishi Sunak (pictured.

CBI director-general Tony Danker will tell a conference that productivity should be increased across the country to help end inequalities in education, health, wealth and opportunity as well as raising living standards.

He said long-term regional inequalities should be tackled, adding that a “new vision” for the economy will be published by the CBI next month.

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Speaking at the organisation’s Urban Revival conference, Mr Danker will call for regions to be liberated from the “restrictive cookie-cutter approach” of the past.

He will say: “A core pillar of the CBI’s vision for the decade ahead is for every UK nation and region to be globally competitive, but neither business nor government can achieve this alone - levelling up will require partnering up.

Governments can build the infrastructure for urban success - more trains, more broadband, new railway stations.

“They control the local budgets for buses, parks, healthcare and colleges - the essential foundations upon which communities are forged.

“Reinforcing successful business clusters will be central to kick-starting this regional revival.

“Cookie-cutter solutions are no solution at all if levelling up is to be a success.

“From automotive in the West Midlands, to aerospace in the South West, and from the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub in Wales to the Golden Triangle of research and innovation in the South East - the UK is rich in clusters of excellence.

“These strengths can equip communities to forge and grow unique identities on a global stage.”

The speech comes after weeks of controversy surrounding the government’s levelling up fund, announced in last month’s budget.

Earlier this month, a legal challenge was threatened by The Good Law Project who said the fund has unfairly advantaged more affluent communities.

The Government insisted all areas could apply for a portion of the funding pot, but as areas on the government’s priority list, which includes Richmondshire, will receive £125,000 to help them with their grants for the fund, the Good Law Project claims the process is illegal.

The Government has said that deprivation markers are not the only criteria it has used for its priority list, which drew criticism for not including areas such as Barnsley.

But the Government said that factors including commute times and productivity levels were also used to assess need.

A separate fund was announced to support towns including Whitby and Castleford.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “As the country recovers from coronavirus our promise is to level-up opportunity across all parts of the UK.

“We are investing record amounts in public services, in supporting businesses and employment and in our high streets, roads and rail.”