Commenting on the Government’s Spending Review, published today, Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities, Dr Peter O’Brien, said:
“The scale and depth of the economic, social and environmental challenges facing the country as a result of COVID-19 are stark – laid out by the analysis produced by the Office for Budget Responsibility. The evidence suggests that those regions and local areas defined as ‘left behind’, and where economies have not realised their full potential for some time, will be disproportionately impacted by the crisis.
“Many of these places will have benefited from European Structural Funds (ESF), and it is vital that the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) matches the total amount of resources available under the previous EU mechanism, and not just the level of EU receipts. It also vital that the UKSPF works on the basis of a long-term approach to deliver investment and transformational change, and that it provides much-needed continuity to aid the transition from ESF.
“New investment in research and innovation is welcome, and more of this investment is needed in Yorkshire, if rebalancing or levelling up is to succeed here. A new levelling up fund provides some additional resources, but the advent of more competitions and bidding for national pots of money can be time consuming and may discourage or hinder joined-up strategic interventions in the regions.
“One of the priorities for the Government has been to set out plans for replacing the UK’s access to infrastructure finance – currently available via the European Investment Bank (EIB). A new infrastructure strategy and national infrastructure bank, set to be based in the north of England, are good news, as are the changes to the Green Book appraisal system. The Government will, however, need to ensure that the new bank can provide finance for business and public sector at a scale and type accessed by UK projects and programmes through the EIB.
“As the National Infrastructure Strategy recognises, devolution should be part of the toolkit needed to help address regional inequality. We welcome the West Yorkshire Devolution Deal, and would encourage the Government to bring forward, at the earliest opportunity, plans to expand devolution elsewhere in Yorkshire.
“Finally, the Spending Review illustrates that Yorkshire (and the Humber) is ideally placed to lead on the decarbonisation of the UK economy and to enable the country to adapt effectively to the challenges and opportunities of climate change.”
The full Spending Review 2020 documents can be found here.