Chamber's view: QES, City Deal and the trolleybus
The Chamber today released its Quarterly Economic Survey (QES); the results whilst in positive territory show a marked deterioration in domestic sales and orders. More worryingly the results show a slowdown in overseas activity which had been showing relatively strong growth, this also contradicts the national picture provided by the British Chambers survey earlier in the week. Whilst not cause to panic it should be a wakeup call for policy makers that the toxic mix of sluggish UK markets and continued turmoil in the Euro zone are having an impact here in Leeds, which is why yesterday’s announcements could not have been more timely.
And what a difference a day makes, we wait for years to hear good news from Whitehall and then get two in the same day. Secretary of State for Transport, Justine Greening gave the go ahead for £170m+ funding for New Generation Transport (NGT), the trolley bus scheme which replaced Super Tram. In announcing the decision she said: “Investment on this scale in precisely this kind of infrastructure is recognition of how crucial Leeds and Yorkshire are to the long-term success of the British economy.”
The Chamber has been a long standing advocate of a mass transit system from the earliest days of Super Tram; Leeds is the only major UK city without this kind of transport infrastructure so this is a great decision. Of course she is only stating what we already know, that Leeds is a major contributor to UK plc and the powerhouse of the Yorkshire economy, at last it will have a 21st century transport system it deserves.
Yesterday also saw the long awaited announcement on City Deal; the ‘asks’ from City Deal around skills, transport infrastructure and international trade development are vital if we are to boost the economy of Leeds and the City Region and we are pleased that this has been listened to by Ministers. Devolution of control over key investment decisions sends out a strong message of recognition that we know what will get this region’s economy firing again.
The ambition for Leeds to be a NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Employment) free city is to be applauded, the Chamber is highly supportive of the decision give to business more involvement in helping to develop the skills agenda. Every quarter our QES says members have struggled to find the skills they need to grow their businesses so having greater involvement is very welcome. Apprenticeships and higher level apprenticeships offer great potential and many members are already taking advantage. However employment legislation affects smaller businesses disproportionately so offering a more flexible solution through the proposed Apprenticeship Training Agency could help to expose more businesses to the benefits of growing their own talent; again the Chamber is supportive and will be playing its part in ensuring this initiative succeeds, you can play your part by completing this 4 question survey too here.
Giving the city region greater control to set its own investment priorities is also very welcome, for too long we have had to go to Whitehall departments to be told what we can and can’t have, Super Tram / NGT being a case in point. This region knows what it needs, so trusting us to make the right decisions is a ground breaking move which we applaud. The ability to build our own investment fund by bringing together the budgets of other local and central government departments who spend in our region will support this decision making capability enormously.
Support to help more of our companies compete in global markets is welcomed. The region has many exemplar companies who are willing to share knowledge and we already have a number of institutions and organisations, including the Chamber, operating in this field supporting exporters. Bringing these together and providing a more coordinated approach should provide enhanced benefit in this era of limited resources. The recent announcement of the restoration of the Heathrow connection to Leeds Bradford International provides connectivity to the world which we should exploit; ease of access to markets is cited as a key enabler and we must take advantage. Obviously getting to the airport in the first place is vital so efficient transport links to it from across our region must be a priority.
Your feedback as always is welcome, comments to firstname.lastname@example.org