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Thames Valley business ‘keeps the faith’ on Levelling Up agenda

The new Prime Minister’s inbox may well overflow with priorities, but the Thames Valley 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, 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 majority of mid-sized businesses (68%) in the Thames Valley believe that the Levelling Up agenda will help their local area – only 6% disagreed. Most firms (62%) also believe that the government’s plans will be beneficial to local businesses.

The results 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. 60% of Thames Valley based respondents see companies like theirs playing an important role in the Levelling Up agenda.

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.

Thames Valley based respondents identified the following as the top priorities in their region:

  • Support investment in R&D (30%)
  • Improve people’s health (30%)
  • Support the creation of better paid jobs (24%)
  • Give more power to local politicians (22%)
  • Invest in school education (22%)

Norman Armstrong, practice leader for Grant Thornton UK LLP in the Thames Valley and Southampton, said: “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.

“Often conversations around Levelling Up exclude the Thames Valley, but the agenda offers some big opportunities that shouldn’t be ignored. As our research has shown, there are quite a few areas that are of interest to local business leaders and which they are hoping will help plug major education, health, skills and quality of life gaps.

“Given the region’s strengths in tech and advanced research it might be surprising that R&D investment tops the priority list. However, this underlines the fact that all parts of the region are not equal and some communities feel left behind as the UK’s Silicon Valley powers ahead. Hopefully we will also soon start seeing improvements in the region’s health landscape – which was identified as a vital mission by business leaders – with six new hospitals promised by the end of the decade.

“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 cannot be achieved without successful public and private sector collaboration and it’s also vital that local authorities recognise the important contribution businesses can make.”

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Thames Valley business leaders identified investment in R&D as the most important Levelling Up mission

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The Grant Thornton Business Outlook Tracker is a bi-monthly survey of mid-market businesses. Censuswide (on behalf of Grant Thornton UK LLP) surveyed 608 senior decision makers in UK mid-market businesses between 1-13 June 2022. The UK mid-market is defined as companies with an annual turnover between £50million – £500million. 50 mid-market businesses in the Thames Valley took part. About Grant Thornton UK LLP Grant Thornton is one of the world’s leading organisations of independent assurance, tax and advisory firms. We are an adviser that delivers technical expertise and a personal, proactive and agile service that goes beyond. The UK member firm is part of a global network that employs 58,000 people in 135 countries. We combine global scale with local insight and understanding to build relationships and deliver the services you need to realise your ambitions. The UK Grant Thornton member firm is led by over 200 partners and employs over 5000 of the profession’s brightest minds. We are a business adviser that celebrates fresh thinking and diverse perspectives to bring you proactive insights and a service you can trust. Find out more at @GrantThorntonUK © 2022 Grant Thornton UK LLP. All rights reserved. ‘Grant Thornton’ refers to the brand under which the Grant Thornton member firms provide assurance, tax and advisory services to their clients and/or refers to one or more member firms, as the context requires. Grant Thornton UK LLP is a member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL). GTIL and the member firms are not a worldwide partnership. GTIL and each member firm is a separate legal entity. Services are delivered by the member firms. GTIL does not provide services to clients. GTIL and its member firms are not agents of, and do not obligate, one another and are not liable for one another’s acts or omissions. This publication has been prepared only as a guide. No responsibility can be accepted by us for loss occasioned to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of any material in this publication.

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