West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board call on government to back region’s ambitious recovery plan
Business, public sector and local government leaders from across the region have reiterated their call for government to support proposals to kickstart West Yorkshire’s recovery from COVID-19.
At 2020’s final meeting of the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board, the leaders of all five West Yorkshire Councils, the LEP, and partners including unions and businesses, have called on the government to give its backing to the ambitious Economic Recovery Plan for the region.
The plan has the potential to create thousands of jobs in in the health, digital and green sectors, and support high growth-potential start-ups and scale-up businesses over the coming decades as West Yorkshire looks beyond the pandemic to become an inclusive, high-skilled, low-carbon economy.
Although the government did not provide funding for Economic Recovery Plan in the recent Spending Review, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and partners are implementing measures around skills and employment support that can be delivered using funding from the region’s devolution deal, as well as continuing to provide support to the region’s businesses.
Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “It is disappointing that the recent Spending Review did not include a commitment to support our Economic Recovery Plan. We continue to press the government to give its backing to our vision for West Yorkshire while also looking at what we can do now to support people affected by the pandemic.
"This is why we are investing some of the funding unlocked by our landmark devolution deal in a multi million-pound skills programme to support people right back into work and help our region emerge from the pandemic as strongly as possible.”
Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and NP11 group of Northern LEPs, said: “We are past the time for words about levelling up - we need action, with the scale of investment, power and resources to get on with the job. The West Yorkshire Economy Recovery Plan has the potential to make a real difference both to our region and also to the wider UK recovery.
“The LEP has been working tirelessly to give help and support to businesses from all corners of our region. Working with partner councils, we have helped channel £500 million in support grants to over 40,000 businesses, as well as putting in place programmes offering advice and guidance to help businesses navigate the difficult circumstances.”
The £1.4 billion West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Plan includes specific investment propositions around health innovation, the region’s transition to a net zero carbon economy as it takes steps to tackle the climate emergency, and support for entrepreneurship.
In order to partially fill the gap in Government support for businesses and people affected by the pandemic, the Combined Authority will also use £13.5 million of funding secured through the West Yorkshire devolution deal to rapidly enhance and expand its successful [re]boot and Employment Hub programmes.
This will help over 10,000 people in the region affected by the pandemic build new skills and access training or find work over the next two years.
The funding will be made available from the Combined Authority’s £38 million a year gainshare funding to be transferred from central government to West Yorkshire through the devolution deal agreed with Government in March.
The Economic Recovery Board also reviewed assistance provided by the LEP’s Business Support Service. Between the end of March and early November it had dealt with over 6,000 enquiries from businesses - two-thirds (65%) higher than the same period last year - and helped West Yorkshire’s Local Authorities deliver over £500 million of discretionary grant funding to over 40,000 businesses.
By 5 October, the LEP had received almost 3,600 applications for COVID-19 Recovery Grants from mostly small businesses across West and North Yorkshire, averaging around £2,700 each.
It also received over 500 applications to its Digital Resilience Voucher scheme, which provides grants of up to £5,000 to small firms towards the cost of ICT equipment and software.
More information about the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board, its members and the draft West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Plan can be found here: https://www.westyorks-ca.gov.uk/erb/