The recent budget included some amazing news. We are delighted to hear that thousands of small businesses will no longer have to pay business rates, a much needed boost for our high streets and entrepreneurs.
And the good news didn’t end there. Further investment is coming to our east-west roads with plans to upgrade both the A64 and the A66.
Alongside this, it has also been an exciting time here with several of our key investments really starting to become a reality.
I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk on BBC Look North last week about the largest private sector investment in the North of England. I really can’t say that too many times, the largest private sector investment in the North of England, a £2.3billion investment to create a £2billion turnover business. Yes, I’m talking about the Sirius Potash mine near Whitby, which we are delighted to see moving forward. Whilst raising the capital on the international money markets will be no easy task, the latest report confirms the quality and quantity of potash and details how it can be extracted cost effectively.
We’ve also recently seen Legal and General go public on their ground-breaking new modular housing factory that will bring hundreds of new jobs to Sherburn in Elmet. We have known about it for a while. We were the ones who made sure it landed in our patch when L&G contacted us only a few months ago. It was a great team effort, with ourselves, Selby District Council and Leeds City Region working together to secure this major investment. It is vitally important that when opportunities arise, neighbouring LEPs are able to work together to secure jobs for the region.
And it doesn’t end there. I was fortunate enough last week to spend a couple of days in Scarborough where a £50m investment Is taking place on a new university campus for Coventry University that will also include University Technical College Scarborough and a sports village. Both Coventry University and the technical college are recruiting students already and are on track to meet their targets. Investments like these are vital in helping deliver the skilled workforce that growing businesses demand.
With GCHQ continuing to expand their operations in Scarborough, it really is the opportunity coast.
We’ve also recently had some good news for the LEP itself, with both our core government funding, and funding for How’s Business, our growth hub, secured until 2018.You may not be aware that previously our funding has been agreed on a year by year basis, which isn’t ideal when you are looking to make strategic plans for the long term. On that note, we are currently refreshing our Strategic Economic Plan. We are not expecting any major changes, just some tweaks to ensure we remain current, on target, and that it reflects our learning.
And on that note, one major learning point is that we need to do more to establish a pipeline of investments, to keep on the front foot when government come to us, often at short notice, offering additional funds to invest. We need to do more to show real ambition for our area, and support that with tangible proposals for how we can make it happen. For example, government have just announced a further £1.8bn for LEPs to bid for. Fortunately we predicted this and are already building our proposal.
Linked to this we are looking for a senior figure from industry to lead a Task Group to establish a pipeline of proposals for some really significant investments in agri-food and bio-renewables. This has always been our priority sector for growth. It’s at the forefront of the twin challenges of meeting global future food shortages and keeping the lights on. It will provide great jobs for many of our children as the economy makes the transition to a low carbon future, a process we feel has just started with the signing of the Paris Accord.
We are a region, where our natural assets are providing major opportunities and we need to ensure the Government’s plans for the Northern Powerhouse reflect this. Hopefully you will read our Chair, Barry Dodd’s article in the Yorkshire Post next week making the case for a Northern Powerhouse that brings together the very best of our great cities and vibrant rural economies.
So right now, we feel our economic future is rosy, and that we are well placed to help everyone in our patch benefit.