Politically Speaking in the Wakefield Express

Wakefield is a business hub for the north of England. Nestled as we are between the M1 and the M62, businesses come here because of our brilliant location at the cross-roads of Britain.

At Junction 41, international giants like Coca-Cola sit alongside distribution centres for Morrisons and Yorkshire Purchasing as well as dozens of smaller firms. Collectively the business community across our district employs thousands of local people.

A couple of weeks back I called in on Dun-Bri who have recently opened a new office there. They’re a small family firm providing specialist commercial vehicle lighting to business customers ranging from the AA to the fire brigade. They chose Wakefield because of its great location and were grateful for the help the Council gave them to set up and source local suppliers. But they’re a growing business too and they want to take on and train new people.

That’s really welcome news. I’m in regular contact with local companies and I know how tough things have been in recent years.

Thankfully, at long last, the economy is growing again.  But I’m worried that growth is patchy and hasn’t yet translated into enough well-paid jobs for people in our area. Too much new investment and growth is still concentrated in London and the South East. One in five young people under the age of 24 are not in work or training. And for those who’ve had their working hours reduced or who lost their jobs over the last few years, there has been little in the way of support to retrain in the skills they need to move into new jobs.

Companies like Dun-Bri and others tell me that with more support they would be able to start more apprenticeships, develop their export market, and invest in infrastructure.

We are in a great strategic location in the north of England. We’re close to great road networks and other large cities. But despite the best efforts of our Regional Development Agency Yorkshire Forward (scrapped by the Government in 2010), the region doesn’t get its fair share and the new Local Economic Partnerships haven’t been equipped to meet the big challenges our regional economy faces.

I want to see more of our national resources devolved to areas like West Yorkshire so that people see more benefit here in Wakefield. That way big projects for things such as transport, housing, skills and infrastructure could be decided locally.

A report this week from Lord Adonis sets out a clear plan for regional growth to redress the balance. At the moment the gap between London and the South East, and the rest of the country is growing by the day. Now we’ve finally got some growth back in the economy, the whole country should be benefiting. By devolving power – and resources – to local areas, we could start to see growth in every area. That really would be good news for local businesses and the local workforce.

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Posted July 4th, 2014 by Ed