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North West business ‘keeps the faith’ on Levelling Up agenda

The new Prime Minister’s inbox may well overflow with priorities, but the North West business community has once again shown its faith in Levelling Up.

The policy agenda, the most recent take on decades of debate about how to rebalance the UK economy away from an overheated London and South East, had been a major focus of the outgoing leader Boris Johnson.

New research from Grant Thornton UK LLP’s latest Business Outlook Tracker* shows his successor that the vast majority of mid-sized businesses in the North West believe that the Levelling Up agenda will be beneficial to local business (74%), in line with the national average of 73%.

The results also show recognition that the Levelling Up agenda cannot be delivered by one sector alone and that UK Plc has a key role to play in its success. Over four in five (84%) of North West based respondents see companies like theirs playing an important role in the Levelling Up agenda, significantly higher than the national average (73%).

The results also reflect which of the government’s 12 Levelling Up missions are most important to local businesses. Each mission was identified as one of the top three priorities in a region, at least once, demonstrating the differing issues needing to be addressed across the UK.**

North West respondents identified the following as the top priorities in their region:

  • Improving people’s health (28%)
  • Reducing crime (26%) and improving digital connectivity (26%)
  • Improving public transport connectivity (24%)

Carl Williams, Managing Partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP in the North West, commented:

“Levelling Up is clearly not just about the economy but about delivering better life outcomes for all our citizens across an incredibly diverse region.

“Whilst it’s clear that not every region will require the same level or type of intervention, it’s about making sure that there’s a consistent agenda that we’re all working towards. I appreciate in the North that it can be difficult because of the nuances of the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester. However, we can come together for a common purpose to make it succeed.

“The North West was one of only two regions in the UK to choose ‘reducing crime’ as one of the top priorities, so local authorities need to explore how best to engage with local businesses to tackle such issues.

“Improving people’s health also ranked highly for the North, and I agree – the focus has to be on healthcare. We have to start with hospitals where there’s been huge delays for non-Covid related surgery and treatments here in the North, as well as the rest of the country. Digital connectivity was another top priority, which is crucial in attracting and retaining new businesses and talent to the area.

“There is no doubt that Levelling Up is both crucially important yet extremely demanding to deliver. The scope of the agenda is so vast that it simply cannot be achieved without successful public and private sector collaboration.

“In terms of what it means to me, it stands for the North working together collectively to be a huge economic driver for the UK and to narrow the gap to the South East. We need to ensure these commitments are followed through and aren’t put on the back burner.”

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