Let's lobby Whitehall to get best investment deal for region's firms, says MP

YORKSHIRE'S businesses and civic leaders must lobby Government to ensure the region gets the road, rail and energy networks it deserves, a Yorkshire MP told a major business event.

The 2016 Yorkshire Finance Director Awards at The Queens Hotel, Leeds. Rachel Reeves MP speaks on stage. 20th October 2016. Picture : Jonathan Gawthorpe

Leeds West Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who is a member of the Treasury Select Committee, claimed that Yorkshire is still poorly served by big infrastructure projects, and the region needs to step up the pressure on Whitehall to put this right.

Ms Reeves, who was the keynote speaker at the Yorkshire Finance Director Awards 2016, said the new Kirkstall Forge railway station and Victoria Gate shopping centre in Leeds are just the types of development the region needs.

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She said Victoria Gate “is really a testament to the ingenuity and the work of the business leaders and the civic leaders in this city”.

But she acknowledged that there was more that needed to be done to help Leeds and Yorkshire become competitive.

She told the dinner at The Queens Hotel in Leeds: “We know that we are poorly served when it comes to investment, particularly in infrastructure, whether that is energy, rail or road. If the Government is going to take this opportunity to invest more and take advantage of these record low interest rates to give the economy a bit of a stimulus..then we need to ensure that that investment is coming to our city and our region, because you can bet that other cities and other regions, including London, will be lobbying on their behalf.”

The Chancellor Philip Hammond is under growing pressure to use his first Autumn Statement to announce major investment in transport systems across the North. Fresh questions have emerged over the future of the HS2 project which will connect Leeds and Sheffield to London via a new high speed rail link, along with suggestions that the new Government could switch its focus to the proposal for trans-Pennine high speed rail, sometimes known as HS3. A report from the Public Accounts Committee of MPs last month raised questions over the cost and economic impact of HS2.

Ms Reeves told the awards dinner: “Let’s use this opportunity to make sure that HS2 comes to Leeds exactly at the same time as it comes to Manchester, that HS3 is not something that happens after HS2, but there is something that we get on with now.

“Let’s take this opportunity to ensure that the ring road in Leeds works properly, and the M62 and M621 are not permanently grid-locked, let’s take this opportunity to invest in the infrastructure that we need, and business needs, to make this city and region as successful as it can be.

“If we’re going to get the investment and infrastructure and the support, and be taken seriously as a region, we have to punch our weight, and make our case for those resources that we need. If we do, I believe we can be not just the best city outside of London, but the best city in this country.”

The Yorkshire Finance Director Awards are sponsored by BDO, Lockton, Sewell Business Group and Walker Morris. The Yorkshire Post is the media partner. A supplement about the awards will appear in The Yorkshire Post on Tuesday.

BUSINESSES and politicians must make sure that the post-Brexit economy works for everybody, according to Rachel Reeves.

The MP, who previously worked as a Bank of England economist, told the Yorkshire Finance Director of the Year awards: “If there’s a lesson we need to learn from the referendum, it’s that we do need to listen to people more and understand their fears and aspirations and their hopes, and together work to ensure that this is an economy that does truly deliver for everybody.

“It’s clear people voted to leave, but people didn’t vote to become poorer, so our membership of the single market; our access to those markets for businesses, for many of you, is absolutely essential.”

Ms Reeves, who campaigned for “Remain” in the referendum, said we also needed to understand people’s legitimate concerns about issues such as the free movement of labour.