'Work with us to level up', CBI tells government

National and local governments must work with business clusters if the UK is to succeed in its 'levelling up' objectivies to enable regions to match the global success of London and SE England, according to the head of the nation's largest business organisation.

Tony Danker, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), told the organisation's 'Urban Revival' virtual conference on Monday that if businesses worked with local and national authorities, they could become the driving force behind the UK’s levelling-up aspirations.Next month the CBI will publish a report on its vision for the UK economy, which will call for regions "to be liberated from the restrictive cookie-cutter approach of the past".It will propose that towns, cities, regions and nations be supported to develop their strength industries in a way that enables each to become globally competitive in their own right."Increasing productivity in all corners of the country will in turn help end inequalities in education, health, wealth and opportunity – and raise living standards for all," said the CBI.  In his speech to the conference, Mr Danker said that uniting business and all levels of government was essential if these aims were to become a reality.“A core pillar of the CBI’s vision for the decade ahead is for every UK nation and region to be globally competitive. But neither business nor government can achieve this alone – levelling up will require partnering up," he said.  
“Governments – national or local – can build the infrastructure for urban success. More trains. More broadband. New railway stations. They control the local budgets for buses, parks, healthcare and colleges – the essential foundations upon which communities are forged.  “Yet levelling up is a vital business issue too - for businesses and by businesses. It can be a tide that raises all boats – and all businesses too. So we’re here to do the bit we as business can do; creating thriving firms, bustling high streets, local jobs, better wages.  “Reinforcing successful business clusters will be central to kickstarting this regional revival. This means building on distinctive local strengths to forge a clear USP for investment in towns, cities, regions and nations in all corners of the United Kingdom. Cookie-cutter solutions are no solution at all if levelling up is to be a success. “True levelling up will not be achieved by regions working towards identikit – and at times competing – economic strategies. Rather, it will come from areas knowing their strengths, recognising the opportunities this can create, and capitalising on them to forge their own path to long-term prosperity.” The CBI said its levelling-up goals included:  - Utilising anchor institutions – from universities to keystone businesses – at the heart of regional economies to help attract investment and spur related sector growth.- Building a rich sector mix, including high-value export offerings to bring money to the region, and future industries like renewable energy with strong growth opportunity. - Business leadership within communities, with firms reinvesting profits into people, delivering training and skills, improving facilities and working towards net-zero carbon emissions. Mr Danker added: "There is no greater force for positive, lasting change than business. Our job now is to turn warm words into a national movement, an urban revival revolution. “Any levelling-up agenda without jobs, without industrial clusters, without business sector regeneration, is not levelling-up at all. Rebalancing the UK economy can’t be done by government alone.  “Business stands ready and able to play a full part. From the technology we create, to the buildings we live and work in, and the transport we use to get there, enterprise can be a driving force in the UK’s urban revival and the key to achieving its levelling-up goals.” 

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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