The Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has today welcomed measures to boost the city region economy, announced by the Chancellor in his autumn statement.
In particular, the Partnership welcomes plans to boost the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) by an additional £1 billion, offering local firms a further opportunity to bid for funds to realise their growth potential.
The LEP has helped companies secure £60 million through RGF rounds one and two, generating £412 million of additional private investment and creating around 3,000 jobs. Successful bids included an advanced manufacturing package in round two, which the LEP submitted on behalf of nine manufacturing firms that would not otherwise have met the minimum £1 million RGF threshold.
Commenting on the RGF boost, Leeds City Region LEP Board Chair Neil McLean said: "Access to finance remains a major challenge for city region firms looking to expand or take on new employees - particularly small and medium-sized businesses. As a LEP, we are encouraged by the announcement of a further £1 billion RGF, and will work with local companies to help them access a share of the Fund."
The autumn statement also confirmed details of schemes included in the National Infrastructure Plan, which was announced by the Treasury yesterday. Leeds City Region schemes that are set to be brought forward as part of the Plan include:
- Two new park and ride sites in York
- Two new railway stations at Kirkstall Forge in Leeds, and Apperley Bridge in Bradford
- Reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve railway track
- Electrification of the Transpennine Express line between Leeds and Manchester Power station development consents granted at Ferrybridge and Selby
- Measures to tackle congestion on the M1 junctions 39-42, between Wakefield and Leeds.
Neil McLean commented: "We are pleased that the electrification of the Transpennine Line, along with other important schemes to improve connectivity and infrastructure within the city region, have been considered within the National Infrastructure Plan.
"We have known for a number of years that better connectivity between Leeds and Manchester would give a much needed transformational shot in the arm to the economic fortunes of the North: a 20-minute reduction in train journey times between our two cities would be worth £7bn at 2009 prices. It is important however that we don't look at infrastructure in isolation; increased investment in the skills of our workforce is vital to ensure the economic benefit is spread far and wide."
The autumn statement oulines a number of other measures that will support delivery of the LEP's economic strategy, which sets out ambitious targets to drive GVA growth, boost employment and lower carbon emissions. These include: encouraging new business starts; providing assistance to exporters; supporting innovation; improving apprenticeships and vocational training; creating 10 super-connected broadband cities through a UK-wide competition; and making available £200m to encourage early up-take of the Green Deal.
For further information please see the Leeds City Region Partnership website.