Rishi Sunak grilled over UK 'levelling up' plans
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With the Government’s White Paper on levelling up now imminent one survey revealed this week more than half of UK firms had no idea what ‘levelling up’ actually meant. Out of the 500 surveyed fewer than one in three believed the Government could deliver on this agenda. Writing in City AM today Steve Hawkes, Head of Strategic Media at communications agency BCW, described levelling up plans as “rudderless”. Quoting one executive who called the Government “a shambles” he added: “The message is clear – get a grip.”
Mike Cherry, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said announcements of concrete support “so far have been disappointing, with no real substance.”
Mr Cherry added: “There is concern among small businesses that the Government has lost focus on the agenda, and recent decisions to increase taxes have only increased these worries.”
The Government is currently planning to raise National Insurance in April which the FSB, and others, have called to be cancelled.
While the addition of tax has been cited as a threat to levelling up, the apparent scaling back of plans has also caused alarm.
The National Enterprise Network (NEN), which supports entrepreneurs across England, has warned there is “still a lot of uncertainty” due to Government taking away critical sources of funding that their members use to deliver business advice, training and mentoring.
A spokesperson for the group told Express.co.uk: “Scrapping the new enterprise allowance was a massive blow, leaving a gap in the provision of enterprise support and thousands of future small business owners underserved and consequently unemployed.”
While many firms have been left unclear on the exact scope of levelling up the NEN are keen to challenge the popular assumption that it doesn’t apply to London.
The group points out many NEN members are operating in and around areas of deprivation in the capital where small businesses are struggling, with an urgent injection of government funding needed to help support agencies who want to assist them.
They also explained there were complicated facets to levelling up such as helping financially excluded groups such as former prisoners, who are often unable to access business loans.
Similar concerns were echoed by the British Chambers of Commerce with Co-Executive Director Hannah Essex pointing out that “serious inequalities exist not just between regions but within regions, towns and cities as well.”
Ms Essex told Express.co.uk it was “absolutely essential” businesses and local economies were placed at the heart of levelling up.
She added: “Local areas must be given real decision-making power, as well as funding to match.
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“Those on the ground, including Chambers of Commerce, should come together to decide what is the most effective way to address local issues and to ‘level up’ their own communities.”
Boris Johnson has also been warned of the need for greater awareness of the costs involved in some of the major construction projects levelling up will involve.
Data out today from software company nPlan revealed construction delays have soared during the pandemic with median delays of 200 days.
CEO of nPlan Dev Amratia said the data was “a call to arms”, adding that we should not think about levelling up “wearing rose coloured glasses”.
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