Neglecting parts of the UK has led to ‘branch line’ economy, warns CBI chief
A leading business group warned this morning that parts of the UK have been neglected over decades, leading to a “branch line” economy.
The CBI said delivering economic growth across the country will be the determining factor in whether the Government’s levelling up agenda will be a success.
Director general Tony Danker said clusters of economic activity will have to be created or built on, in different parts of the UK.
He will tell the opening day of the CBI’s annual conference that the UK has had to live with the consequences of offering little more than ”benign neglect”.
With the most productive parts of a sector, such as head offices, too often based in London and the South East, the UK is operating as a “branch line economy”, he argued.
Danker announced that the CBI was setting up a Centre for Thriving Regions to help the private sector engage in “genuine economic placemaking”, with input from the group’s 800 strong regional council network.
He will say: “What the UK needs to level up is economic growth in every place. Growth that in turn provides better paid jobs, skilled work, firm-level success and creates the kind of virtuous circle that helps a place to prosper.
“The truth is that the UK suffered from de-industrialisation. Since the 1980s, we let old industries die – offering little more than benign neglect for what got left behind – it was an economic policy that was ambivalent about levelling down.
“Too relaxed about a brain drain as young people leave home to chase better paid jobs. Wages higher on average in the South than the North. Multinational corporations located overwhelmingly in the South East where new industries thrived. Shuttered high streets in towns and cities left behind. A loss of pride in place.
“We’ve spent the past decades living with these consequences, but now we’ve got a shot at redemption, a chance to regenerate with nascent industries, such as biotech, space and cybersecurity, emerging in all parts of the country.
“Even more with net zero, which creates a once in a generation opportunity for the UK’s industrial heartlands to lead in this new industrial revolution as they did the last. In hydrogen. Off-shore wind. Carbon Capture. Electric Vehicles and batteries, and other net-zero solutions.
“A chance for these places to be world-leading again. If this isn’t levelling up, I don’t know what is.”
This year’s CBI conference is taking place over three days, at eight locations across the country.