“For business leaders listening to the Queen’s speech yesterday, when our future King set out the 38 laws that the Government intends to pass in the coming year, it might have seemed somewhat of an anti-climax. Most of the bigger bills, and headline grabbers, had already been announced, namely the Levelling Up white paper and the bill to create the new Great British Railways, but there were some nuggets in there which should provide some comfort to some business sectors. As we face the multiple challenges (and opportunities) in the post-pandemic, post-Brexit landscape, alongside grappling with the climate emergency and cost of living crisis, new legislation to cut red tape, promote new energy security projects and hand more power to local areas, are perhaps the most notable.
Some of the more significant ‘asks’ that businesses have been pushing for, namely a fundamental rethink of Business Rates, did not make the cut, with only small tinkering at the edges of the hugely complex and increasingly unpopular tax policy. Similarly the previously promised Employment Bill was absent, which puts plans to give staff a ‘default’ right to work from home on the back burner amid fears it would become impossible to get them back to their desks (with the civil service being among the slowest to return to the workplace).
Focusing on what was in the speech, the government’s priority is to “grow and strengthen the economy and help ease the cost of living for families”, with Prince Charles saying on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen that “my government will level up opportunity in all parts of the country and support more people into work.” There was not a huge amount of detail about how this will actually happen, but that’s not to say we cannot work together to find the right solutions to some of the nation’s thorniest challenges. My hope is that the public sector at the local, regional and national level will embrace the power of the private sector to continue to drive the recovery, recognising that through collaboration and coalescing around shared goals we can achieve so much more to the benefit of all.
Developing a more pragmatic narrative about levelling up must also accompany the Government’s much talked about white paper. The case for supporting areas outside of London who are suffering from poor economic outcomes is a strong one. However, this narrative is often accompanied by a framing against London. The truth is that Londoners are struggling too, with the city seeing the highest poverty rate in the country.
Cities such as London have a significant role to play and I urge the Government to support investment and growth in our capital city, alongside other cities across the UK, to ensure our collective potential is realised and prosperity can be shared. A report we recently commissioned with WPI Economics showed that the untapped potential of cities could contribute an extra £63bn by 2030, should they have London-level growth targets.
As a supporter of BIDs since they arrived in the UK more than 20 years ago, I appreciate the vital role that partnership plays in unlocking potential and tackling inequalities.
We stand on the edge of a new era of public / private partnership – and I hope we can forge a new compact between businesses, communities and policy makers, especially in the UK’s major cities, giving the private sector a real say in how our cities evolve in the future. That would be true levelling up, and I believe a positive step forward for the country and our democracy.”
We are keen for our business community to keep in touch with us so if you would like to discuss anything specific with the BID please get in touch with Henry Johnstone.