West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board prepares for end of lockdown

Business, public sector and local government leaders discuss support needed for region’s economic recovery

Business, public sector and local government leaders from across the region have met to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and steps that need to be taken as West Yorkshire prepares to exit the national lockdown.

At the latest meeting of the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board, the leaders of all five West Yorkshire Councils, the LEP, and partners including unions and businesses, reviewed the latest data from across the region to understand the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the region’s economy and the support needed to help people and businesses.

The West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board also reiterated its call on government to back the ambitious Economic and Transport Recovery Plans ahead of the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review expected later this month.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “COVID-19 continues to have a devastating impact on West Yorkshire, with unemployment almost doubling since March and many thousands of businesses closing their doors over the past few months. The effects of this virus will be felt for many years to come.

“Looking ahead, we are working to make sure businesses and people get the support they need to get through what will be a difficult winter.”

Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and NP11 group of Northern LEPs, said: “We are doing everything we can to support our region’s businesses, protect livelihoods and beat this virus. We have been clear that strengthening the health measures to keep people safe from the effects of COVID-19 must not do further damage to the economy, jobs and the future prosperity of our region.

“With the right national support both now and in the months and years ahead, we will be able to build a more positive future that works for everyone. That’s why we’re calling on the government to commit to support our West Yorkshire Economic and Transport Recovery Plans.”

The latest economic data for West Yorkshire shows the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyday life.

The number of people claiming jobless benefits has risen by 87% since the beginning of the first lockdown in March, rising from 57,100 to almost 107,000 by the end of October.

Around 4,900 businesses went into liquidation in September and October, with the transport and storage, wholesale and retail, professional services, and information and communications sectors particularly affected.

The high rate was partly due to the system ‘catching up’ as restrictions on business liquidations put in place earlier in the year were lifted in September, as well as reflecting the unprecedented economic environment.

Economic forecasting undertaken by the Combined Authority found that in a worst-case scenario, West Yorkshire could see up to 58,000 jobs lost in the next year leading to an unemployment rate of 14% and £12 billion wiped off the value of the regional economy.

The West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board reiterated its call for the government to back the £2 billion draft Economic and Transport Recovery Plans in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review, which is expected to be announced later this month.

The proposals set out ambitious plans to tackle immediate issues including supporting the transport network through local lockdown measures, as well as longer term strategies to address decades of under-investment in the region and deliver an inclusive, zero carbon recovery.

The draft 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 entrepreneurship.

The West Yorkshire Transport Recovery Plan calls for an innovative, low carbon Mass Transit System for West Yorkshire; an integrated rail plan for the North and Midlands, including HS2 East and Northern Powerhouse Rail with a stop serving Bradford City Centre; and short- and long-term funding for the region’s bus network as well as support for integrated ticketing and information services for passengers in our region.

The Economic Recovery Board is working closely with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and partner Councils to understand the implications of the further assistance for jobs and business once the national lockdown comes to an end, including the extension of the furlough scheme to the end of March 2021.

More information about the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board, its members and the draft West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Plan can be found here.