West Yorkshire holds the ‘blueprint for recovery’

Combined Authority writes to Chancellor to back its vision for West Yorkshire's COVID-19 recovery or risk £12 billion hit to the region’s economy

24 August 2020

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority has asked the Government to give its backing to an ambitious vision for the region’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and provide the funding necessary to deliver it.

In a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Leaders of West Yorkshire Councils and the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) set out a targeted approach to four distinctive investment propositions totaling £750 million that address the specific needs of the West Yorkshire economy and its people, with the potential to make a major contribution to the national recovery.

These propositions, developed by the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board, build on the region’s strengths in digital, manufacturing and entrepreneurship, and the opportunities of the transition to a net zero carbon economy. If delivered, they would unlock benefits for the region and the UK as a whole.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council, said: “We offer a practical vision of the role that West Yorkshire can play, firmly at the heart of the UK’s economic recovery from COVID-19. Through our £1.8 billion devolution deal, the Government has shown that it understands the value of investing in West Yorkshire, and we have a strong track record of making the most of public spending to generate growth for our region’s economy.

“Our plan has identified areas where we can build on our region’s unique strengths to make a real difference and contribute to the leveling-up agenda. We want to create a better, more equal economy for the future and a cleaner, sustainable environment, with better jobs, higher skills and the right infrastructure for our communities.”

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Through our locally led recovery plan we believe we have the blueprint to follow, the collective will, and the strong partnerships to deliver. We ask now that Government demonstrates their commitment both to our status as a Mayoral Combined Authority, and to levelling-up, by working with us to see this plan implemented.”

The letter notes that boosting West Yorkshire’s productivity in line with the UK average could add £8.5 billion to the UK economy, while the region has the potential to create 70,000 new jobs in the low carbon economy.

But analysis for the Combined Authority shows the heavy cost of inaction. Under a worst-case scenario, the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to 58,000 job losses and see the West Yorkshire economy shrink by £12 billion this year alone, and be up to a third smaller in 2021. This would result in a £2.4 billion impact on Government finances and unemployment potentially rising to 14%.

The Economic Recovery Plan has been developed by the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board, which has been convened by the Combined Authority to bring together civic, business, trade union, health and third sector leaders.

Through the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Plan, the Combined Authority aims to grow a more inclusive, resilient, sustainable economy with more productive businesses, better levels of skills and entrepreneurialism, less inequality, and better environmental sustainability.

It has identified the region’s world-leading position in health innovation, the potential of digital technology, opportunities created by a transition to a net zero carbon economy by 2038, and promoting entrepreneurship as areas in which West Yorkshire has a distinctive strength and is able to make a major contribution to the national recovery from COVID-19.

The £750 million investment package outlined in the letter to the Chancellor is part of a £1.4 billion long term plan of action to offer immediate support to the West Yorkshire economy, develop potential with skills and retraining, as well as support for growth industries and future opportunities, and developing long-term economic resilience.  

The Economic Recovery Plan builds on the on the ambitions to level-up the region and the enormous potential of the West Yorkshire Devoution Deal, signed by leaders in March. It is focused on supporting jobs for people in resilient businesses, on helping people get the skills they need to get jobs, and on the infrastructure people need to access opportunities.

Find more information about the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Board. A copy of the letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak can be found here.