Statement from Sir John Peace, Chairman of Midlands Engine, in response to the Chancellor’s Summer Economic Update

Date posted: July 8, 2020
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I welcome the Chancellor’s Summer Economic Update and wholly concur with the statement that we will not be defined by this crisis but rather by our response to it.

From the commitment to finding, creating and protecting jobs through to the measures that will enable the levelling up of our economy – with the significant investment that will entail – this was a statement I believe we can and must all get behind. The collective package of measures announced will undoubtedly provide vital support for our region’s people, businesses and communities.

I particularly welcome his commitment to supporting young people through the Kickstart scheme, the focus on upskilling and measures to prevent people being lost to the scourge of long-term unemployment. This must remain our collective focus over the weeks and months to come.

However, as the Chancellor acknowledged, this can only be the beginning. As Chairman of the Midlands Engine, I see three clear cut priorities that we must keep firmly in mind as we look to build on the Chancellor’s announcements today.

First, we need investment in infrastructure. The Chancellor spoke of Project Speed, the Government’s intention to speed up the delivery and development of infrastructure projects. If we are to get spades in the ground on some of the vital improvement works in the pipeline, for example, Midlands Engine Rail, then Government needs to fund the development of these schemes as soon as possible, so that they are ready to build in two or three years, rather than seven or eight years. Our public transport system needs investment, and I hope such funding will be forthcoming in the autumn Budget. It is essential that we build an integrated transport network across the region and move freight from our roads onto our railways, reducing carbon emissions.

Second, we need to support our businesses. Our region has a broad base of commercial strengths – including advanced manufacturing, but also agri-food, logistics, health and med-tech. These businesses have to be able to access finance for growth, and the skilled staff they need to accelerate that growth.

Third, we must amplify our position at the heart of the green recovery the Chancellor spoke of. The whole of the Midlands region is in the vanguard of pioneering environmental innovation. The advancing Midlands Engine Development Corporation, based around the East Midlands Toton HS2 Hub, gives us an opportunity to build a new type of transformational development – one with net zero at its heart.

It is incumbent on all of us now to work together and to seize what I believe to be a once in a generation opportunity to recover and rebuild our economy. The Midlands is a region of pioneering minds, thriving industry and advanced technology, of inspiring heritage and incredible, determined people. Covid-19 does not change these facts. It only deepens our resolve to see this crisis through, to rebuild and to further unlock the potential of our region; transforming the opportunities and outcomes for people across the Midlands for decades to come.

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