CBI chief back­ing the case for One York­shire

Top busi­ness leader wants de­vo­lu­tion for whole re­gion

Yorkshire Post - - FRONT PAGE - MARK CASCI BUSI­NESS EDI­TOR ■ Email: mark.casci@ypn.co.uk ■ Twit­ter: @MarkCasci

If we look at global com­pe­ti­tion, scale re­ally mat­ters. Carolyn Fair­bairn, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Bri­tish In­dus­try.

ONE OF Bri­tain’s top busi­ness lead­ers has said a de­vo­lu­tion set­tle­ment en­com­pass­ing the whole of York­shire would al­low the re­gion to com­pete on an in­ter­na­tional scale. Carolyn Fair­bairn spoke to The

York­shire Post be­fore ad­dress­ing the Con­fed­er­a­tion of Bri­tish In­dus­try (CBI) York­shire and Hum­ber An­nual din­ner, where she said there needed to be a “will­ing­ness and open­ness from Govern­ment” and ac­cused Min­is­ters of “de­volv­ing pow­ers to the re­gions with one hand and hold­ing them back with the other”.

Asked what One York­shire would of­fer over sep­a­rate deals for the likes of Leeds and Sh­effield, Ms Fair­bairn, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the CBI, said: “If you look how well York­shire is do­ing with the tech in­vest­ment, with the em­ploy­ment growth, there is a real sense of op­por­tu­nity. But I think we need to recog­nise that, if we look at global com­pe­ti­tion, scale re­ally mat­ters.

“We as busi­nesses don’t re­ally care too much about the po­lit­i­cal model, we don’t care about the pol­i­tics, but I think we care about pros­per­ity and hav­ing suf­fi­cient eco­nomic scale for dif­fer­ent re­gions for the UK to re­ally punch their weight and suc­ceed.”

When asked what mes­sage she had for North­ern Pow­er­house Min­is­ter Jake Berry – who has re­peat­edly dis­missed the case for One York­shire de­vo­lu­tion – and the Depart­ment for Com­mu­ni­ties and Lo­cal Govern­ment over­see­ing the de­vo­lu­tion process, she said: “Our mes­sage would be that busi­nesses in this part of the UK and in­deed across the North­ern Pow­er­house want there to be lead­er­ship at scale.

“That en­ables de­ci­sions to be taken which in turn en­able greater pros­per­ity.

“The ben­e­fits of there be­ing that kind of lead­er­ship, in big enough units, which cor­re­spond more to the eco­nomic map of the UK rather than the po­lit­i­cal map, would be good for jobs, good for growth, un­lock in­vest­ment and build con­fi­dence at ex­actly the time when we have got some of the un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing Brexit com­ing to a head.”

In her speech to del­e­gates at the Univer­sity of Leeds last night, Ms Fair­bairn said: “I think it’s fair to say there is con­cern in the busi­ness com­mu­nity that much of the re­gion has fallen be­hind the pace. In par­tic­u­lar, that the lack of a deal for parts of York­shire risks cre­at­ing gaps in the North­ern Pow­er­house. We know that what mat­ters for firms has not changed – busi­ness wants de­vo­lu­tion to suc­ceed. In the last five years, we have come a long way. But to go fur­ther, the Govern­ment has to re­alise that it can’t de­volve power to the re­gions with one hand and hold them back with the other.

“What we need is a will­ing­ness and open­ness in govern­ment to fin­ish what has been started – and in­volve firms in the process.”

An Ad­journ­ment De­bate in the House of Com­mons on Tues­day saw Mr Berry, who is in favour of the ex­ist­ing Sh­effield City Re­gion deal, re­peat­edly clash with MPs at­tempt­ing to make the case for York­shire-wide de­vo­lu­tion. Mr Berry re­it­er­ated his op­po­si­tion to any deal

Con­tin­ued from Page 1. cover­ing the whole re­gion de­spite its be­ing backed by as many as 17 of the re­gion’s 20 coun­cils.

Ms Fair­bairn, who be­came CBI chief in 2015 and is a for­mer nonex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Lloyds Bank­ing Group, also had high praise for York­shire’s econ­omy, par­tic­u­larly its tech sec­tor, which it said had the op­por­tu­nity to be­come the next Sil­i­con Val­ley.

“York­shire has al­ways been full of en­trepreneur­ship and in­no­va­tion,” she said. “And that spirit still burns. York­shire com­pa­nies have spent 16 per cent more on R&D than last year. It’s only right that we cel­e­brate that suc­cess – but also how more can be made of it. There has been talk of mak­ing York­shire a new Sil­i­con Val­ley. My re­sponse is – now is the time to go for it. At the CBI, we have stood by your side through this start-up phase – and we will be by your side as you grow.

“The op­por­tu­nity lies in mak­ing even more of York­shire’s twin en­gines of world-class in­no­va­tion and higher ed­u­ca­tion.”

She added: “We need York­shire’s grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion now more than ever. Busi­ness ac­tiv­ity in York­shire is grow­ing at its fastest rate in two years. Man­u­fac­tur­ing out­put is at a three-year high. And the econ­omy is worth an as­ton­ish­ing £110bn per year – that’s around twice the size of Wales and larger than 11 EU coun­tries. So to­day I want to ask how we can max­imise the tremen­dous power of York­shire busi­ness to im­prove the lives of ev­ery­one across the UK.”

On ed­u­ca­tion and skills in York­shire, the CBI boss said: “If there is one con­straint that firms tell us about again and again, it is skills. We know we have young peo­ple here who can and should have a brighter fu­ture. York­shire firms are step­ping up to the chal­lenge.”

A full in­ter­view with Ms Fair­bairn will ap­pear in to­mor­row’s

THE OP­TI­MISM and am­bi­tion of CBI di­rec­tor gen­eral Carolyn Fair­bairn – “We need York­shire’s grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion now more than ever” – stands in con­trast to this week’s ob­fus­ca­tion by the North­ern Pow­er­house Min­is­ter.

Un­like Jake Berry who can­not bring him­self, for what­ever rea­son, to recog­nise the po­ten­tial of the One York­shire de­vo­lu­tion model, and is in­tent on press­ing ahead with the elec­tion of a mayor in Sh­effield City Re­gion who will have lim­ited pow­ers and even less pub­lic sup­port, Ms Fair­bairn does.

Ad­dress­ing the CBI’s York­shire and Hum­ber an­nual din­ner, she spoke for the ma­jor­ity when she said this re­gion has “fallen be­hind the pace” and the lack of progress on this side of the Pen­nines “risks cre­at­ing gaps in the North­ern Pow­er­house”.

If she, and the re­cently forged coali­tion of the will­ing, can see the scale of the op­por­tu­nity, why can’t Mr Berry? Didn’t he hear Theresa May at last week’s party con­fer­ence when she com­mit­ted her­self, and her govern­ment, to the North­ern Pow­er­house?

More per­ti­nently, Ms Fair­bairn chal­lenged busi­nesses to step up to the plate af­ter call­ing for “a will­ing­ness and open­ness in govern­ment to fin­ish what has been started”. Though the is­sues are po­lit­i­cal, and com­plex, de­vo­lu­tion is about the fu­ture of busi­ness – and how ar­eas out­side of Lon­don can best pros­per in a global econ­omy. And, while this news­pa­per ap­plauds those lo­cal lead­ers try­ing to con­vince the Govern­ment to em­brace the most dy­namic de­vo­lu­tion deal of all, they can only get so far – per­haps it now falls to York­shire’s top bosses to tell Mr Berry why his stance is so mis­guided.

CAROLYN FAIR­BAIRN: CBI chief said North­ern busi­nesses wanted ‘lead­er­ship at scale’.

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