LEP sets sights on an inclusive recovery from COVID-19

Ambitious goal to wipe out social and economic inequality in West Yorkshire as the region recovers from pandemic

Wiping out social and economic inequality in West Yorkshire while driving future prosperity through innovation and entrepreneurship is the ambitious goal set out today by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and which could deliver a £7 billion boost to the economy.  

At today’s LEP meeting, board members agreed to implement two new frameworks that will guide future activity and tackle some of the most urgent long-term challenges facing the region, to create a regional economy where everyone can share in the benefits of the recovery. 

The Inclusive Growth and Innovation Frameworks have been developed by the LEP and West Yorkshire Combined Authority to promote well-being, skills, digital and transport connectivity and foster a culture of innovation with the long-term aspiration of eliminating economic and social disparities in the region.  

They will build on the strength of the region’s diverse communities, make better use of untapped social and physical assets such as community groups and derelict buildings that can be transformed, work closely with third sector organisations and create an environment where innovation and new businesses can flourish.  

Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of the LEP and the NP11 group of northern local enterprise partnerships, said: “The effect of COVID-19 has been devastating for so many people and businesses in our region. It has redoubled our commitment to making sure everyone can find the right skills and training to help them get on in life and make ours a productive economy that works for everyone.  

“For all of West Yorkshire’s success over the past decade in creating more and better jobs, we still have too many disadvantaged communities, for whom we need concerted action on skills, transport and other obstacles to achieving the standard of living we want to see for all.” 

Cllr Shabir Pandor, Chair of the LEP’s Inclusive Growth and Public Policy Panel, and Leader of Kirklees Council, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that for all the progress we’ve made in tackling inequality across the region, we still have a way to go. Despite the high levels of economic growth and job creation that the region has achieved over the last decade, the benefits have not been felt equally by all our communities. Our people need more opportunities to develop better skills and qualifications that enable them to get secure, well-paid employment. 

“During these uniquely challenging times we need to do much more to tackle disadvantage to promote good physical and mental health, good work, well-being and improve living standards for all. The Inclusive Growth and Innovation Frameworks will help us build the kind of region where everyone has the chance to achieve their full potential and enjoy the best quality of life as we emerge from the pandemic.” 

Kate Hainsworth, Chief Executive of the Leeds Community Foundation and the LEP's Diversity Champion, said: “One of West Yorkshire’s greatest strengths is the untapped potential of its vibrant and diverse communities. But we need to do more to tackle disadvantage to promote good health, jobs and well-being.  

“The Inclusive Growth and Innovation Frameworks together are an ambitious plan to wipe out social and economic inequality in our region and make sure everyone has the chance to enjoy the best quality of life.” 

The region has had great success over the past decade in promoting growth, but certain communities still experience poorer health, well-being and lower standards of living, which has been further exacerbated by the pandemic.  

Over 270,000 people across the region – or 29% of the working age population – are not in ‘good work’, in terms of high quality, secure, well-paid employment and around 380,000 people (26%) have low or no qualifications. Since the first lockdown began in March, unemployment has risen by 87% to almost 107,000, with Bradford now having the highest youth unemployment rate in the country.  

In order to tackle these issues and build a strong long-term recovery, the LEP’s Inclusive Growth Framework aims to promote well-being, higher skills, and good digital and transport connectivity with the ultimate aim of eliminating economic and social disparities. 

It seeks to boost social mobility for individuals and communities; promote ‘good work’ in terms of pay, conditions and progression; and make sure that everyone has the opportunity to share the advantages of the economic recovery. 

The overall ‘prize’ of inclusive growth is significant. OECD analysis shows that addressing inequality can have a sizeable impact on growth and prosperity. Levelling up incomes for the lowest 40% of earners could deliver a cumulative GDP gain of nearly 9% over 30 years. In West Yorkshire, this would translate to an inclusive growth ‘dividend’ of almost £7 billion, with additional positive effects in terms of improved health, well-being and reduced benefits payments.

Closely related to this is the Innovation Framework to support innovation and entrepreneurship in Leeds City Region, which will be a fundamental part of the region’s recovery from COVID-19, as well as its long-term economic future.  

The LEP’s Innovation Framework looks to overcome structural, long-term issues that have resulted in lower levels of innovation among the region’s businesses leading to lower productivity and stalled improvements in living standards.  

The LEP wants the region to build a global reputation as having an open, inclusive, thriving and coherent innovation ecosystem, where SMEs, entrepreneurs and individuals are inspired to innovate, and can easily navigate the support landscape and connect and collaborate with others to create new and better solutions for business growth and societal good.  

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority is also working to develop a ‘good work standard’ for the region, to recognise employers that commit to positive employment practices, such as paying a living wage, offering secure work, and development and progression, as it looks to the economic recovery beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic.