Rishi Sunak grilled over UK 'levelling up' plans
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The long-awaited and recently delayed white paper on the Government’s “levelling up” agenda is set to lay out plans for improving parts of the country that are believed to have been “left behind” in recent decades. But some are already accusing Whitehall of lacking vision and of not doing enough to support business. The implications, especially following almost two years of Government-imposed, business-bashing restrictions, introduced in response to Covid, are dire.
Steve Hawkes of communications agency BCW said business leaders are fed up with the lack of action and planning being displayed by ministers.
One executive said: “They’re a shambles.”
At the heart of the problem, in Mr Hawkes eyes, is that the Government has overlooked a key component in its ‘levelling up’ agenda – business.
Mr Hawkes wrote in City AM that while education, skills, research and development and a reorganisation of local Government all get a look-in in new plans.
But, he added: “There’s a gaping hole.
“There’s next to nothing for business. And that’s the crux.
“There really needs to be.”
Mr Hawkes said Number 10’s sights were too narrow – that it should be looking not just to the here and now, but to how businesses can be helped over the coming decades.
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He insisted that Mr Johnson must not pass the buck on this, but should “get a grip”.
This would involve the formation of a proper industrial strategy and the upping of ambitions relating to infrastructure programmes.
The opportunities afforded by the ‘levelling up’ agenda, he added, are the groundwork, but the Prime Minister must act on them.
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Mr Hawkes said: “He needs to deliver a credible Go for Growth plan that sets the direction of Britain not just in the current fiscal year but over the next 20 years.”
While, on the face of it, radical, these plans, he believes, would receive the support of business leaders and MPs.
And it is clear, given the current political tribulations inside Number 10 (or, perhaps, in its gardens), that raising such support is essential for the stable future of the Conservative Party.
One senior Tory insider told City AM: “We’re at our best when we’re radical and we deliver.
“We have to do that now.”
Mr Johnson hailed Brexit as a wonderful opportunity for British business. But many feel that the advantage won’t come about by itself and must, instead, be grabbed by those at the top.
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