The new Prime Minister’s inbox may well overflow with priorities, but the Thames Valley business community has once again shown its faith in Levelling Up.
The policy agenda, the most recent take on decades of debate about how to rebalance the UK economy, had been a major focus of the outgoing leader Boris Johnson.
New research from Grant Thornton UK LLP’s latest Business Outlook Tracker shows his successor that the majority of mid-sized businesses (68%) in the Thames Valley believe that the Levelling Up agenda will help their local area – only 6% disagreed. Most firms (62%) also believe that the government’s plans will be beneficial to local businesses.
The results show recognition that the Levelling Up agenda cannot be delivered by one sector alone and that UK Plc has a key role to play in its success. 60% of Thames Valley based respondents see companies like theirs playing an important role in the Levelling Up agenda.
The results also reflect which of the government’s 12 Levelling Up missions are most important to local businesses. Each mission was identified as one of the top three priorities in a region, at least once, demonstrating the differing issues needing to be addressed across the UK.
Thames Valley based respondents identified the following as the top priorities in their region:
- Support investment in R&D (30%)
- Improve people’s health (30%)
- Support the creation of better paid jobs (24%)
- Give more power to local politicians (22%)
- Invest in school education (22%)
Norman Armstrong, practice leader for Grant Thornton UK LLP in the Thames Valley and Southampton, said: “Levelling Up is clearly not just about the economy but about delivering better life outcomes for all our citizens across an incredibly diverse region. Whilst it’s clear that not every region will require the same level or type of intervention, it’s about making sure that there’s a consistent agenda that we’re all working towards.
“Often conversations around Levelling Up exclude the Thames Valley, but the agenda offers some big opportunities that shouldn’t be ignored. As our research has shown, there are quite a few areas that are of interest to local business leaders and which they are hoping will help plug major education, health, skills and quality of life gaps.
“Given the region’s strengths in tech and advanced research it might be surprising that R&D investment tops the priority list. However, this underlines the fact that all parts of the region are not equal and some communities feel left behind as the UK’s Silicon Valley powers ahead. Hopefully we will also soon start seeing improvements in the region’s health landscape – which was identified as a vital mission by business leaders – with six new hospitals promised by the end of the decade.
“There is no doubt that Levelling Up is both crucially important yet extremely demanding to deliver. The scope of the agenda is so vast that it cannot be achieved without successful public and private sector collaboration and it’s also vital that local authorities recognise the important contribution businesses can make.”