Inequalities must end if region is to enjoy sustainable rebound
By Rob Freeman | 18th November 2020
Targeted action to improve skills and develop physical and digital infrastructure is vital if the South West is to attract inward investment to build back better after coronavirus.
That is the view of the CBI's Reviving Regions, which highlights long-standing regional inequalities across England inhibiting growth, opportunity and productivity.
Sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, the report warned the disparities in economic performance are at risk of widening further if government levelling-up ambitions falter in the wake of Covid-19.
And the paper calls for a long-term strategic vision to guide the country through the recovery.
In the South West, the report said improvements to infrastructure - ranging from enhanced digital connectivity to rail and road projects - have the potential to be transformational.
Increased spending on training and retraining is another regional priority with a call to empower the local and regional leaders to create a culture where businesses can operate, invest and grow with confidence.
The report's recommendations include:
- Building vibrant local labour markets, including increasing local capacity to deliver back-to-work programmes alongside a long-term focus on the devolution of adult skills.
- Transforming local infrastructure to facilitate new ways of working, including a focus on the future of towns and cities, improving digital connectivity and a wholesale reform of regional funding to ensure a strategic approach to investment.
- Inspiring innovative businesses to invest in the regions, including short-term interventions to help businesses grow, plus locally designed and delivered business support.
CBI South West chair Susan Davy said: "Skills gaps and pockets of low productivity restrict opportunity and prosperity in parts of the South West, and challenges around connectivity - both physical and digital - have seen slow progress.
"Action on these issues is vital if the region is to enjoy a fair and sustainable recovery. We must attract the investment needed to enable South West businesses to enjoy success not just regionally or nationally, but globally too."
Lloyds ambassador for the South West Jeremy Hayward said: "The regions and nations of the UK have a huge role to play in the country's recovery from the pandemic and we need to approach it in a joined up way that supports a sustainable future.
"The South West is known for its green credentials and using this to create jobs, increasing the skills base of the workforce and improving both physical and digital infrastructure in a way that supports a green recovery - will go a long way to help the region fulfil its potential."
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