Devolution and a New Deal: how we emerge strongly from Coronavirus

Devolution and a New Deal: how we emerge strongly from Coronavirus

By Sheffield City Region LEP Chair James Muir

Good news has been in short supply in recent months, and so the confirmation that a devolution deal for South Yorkshire has been agreed is very welcome and positive for our region and the North’s economy. 

We are emerging from the greatest public health crisis any of us have faced. The coronavirus, while still posing a very real threat, has cost many lives and decimated the economy.

Now, more than ever, we need to stick together, work together, and support each other in order to ensure that when things get back to the new normal, we are stronger for it.

Never has devolution been so important to our region.

We finally have a deal which gives South Yorkshire a new set of powers and unlocks billions of pounds of additional investment.

On transport, on skills, on housing, and on development, we now have a greater ability to choose our own path, unlock our own potential, and make our own destiny.

This is a giant leap forward with more decisions about South Yorkshire being made in South Yorkshire.

To help build back better after Covid-19, The Mayor and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) have been developing an economic recovery plan with local authorities, institutions, businesses, and others.

This plan, submitted to the government, would see a £1.7bn investment in the region’s people, businesses and places. It will support more than 50,000 training and job opportunities, back 30,000 businesses, create 3,000 apprenticeships, and revitalise South Yorkshire’s towns centres.

This plan sets the right priorities for the region to deal with the immediate impact of the pandemic crisis. The consultative process has been thorough and inclusive, and I am delighted to be able to endorse the plan with the confidence that our public and private sector leaders stand behind it.

Our aim is a region transformed in three ways: stronger, greener, and fairer. We not only need a bigger economy but a better one. More resilient, more sustainable, and more closely linked to the health and wellbeing of people living here.

We need a higher-value and higher-tech economy, so people have better jobs, and more money stays in our area.

In his speech on 30th June, the Prime Minister confirmed the ‘opportunities guarantee’ to give every young person the chance to take on an apprenticeship or work placement. This is a welcome move. But in our region, we also need to invest in our world-class universities, and expand our world-class Advance Manufacturing Research Centre into a fully-fledged ‘MIT for the North’.

We can unleash South Yorkshire’s potential – contributing to northern and national prosperity.

The landmark devolution agreement is a great step forward, but it is not the end of the journey. While it unlocks new possibilities, we must realise them ourselves. To do that we have to work together. If we fail to, we will waste this opportunity, and South Yorkshire will pay the price.

The LEP and the Mayor stand ready to build back an economy that is stronger and more resilient and provides a bigger proportion of higher skilled, better paid jobs.

Whilst our submission to government contains ambitious initiatives to stimulate investment in strengthening and growing businesses as well as launching a broad programme of construction and infrastructure renovation, the plan’s key emphasis is on supporting people to improve their earning capacity through training, re-training and up-skilling.

Increasing our skills base is the best way to improve the well-being of our population and attract new inward investment and stimulate positive economic growth.

We stand ready to lead the region into a stronger, more prosperous future for our residents, our businesses and our economy.

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