The Government’s new ‘Levelling Up’ White Paper is an important first step in recognising the key role businesses play in the health of their local economy, according to Shropshire Chamber of Commerce.
Chief executive Richard Sheehan said the plans outlined today reflected many policies which the Chamber network had long been campaigning for.
The strategy aims to improve services such as education, broadband and transport and ‘shift both money and power into the hands of working people’.
Among the 12 key missions outlined by the Government is a pledge that pay, employment and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK by 2030.
Mr Sheehan said: “This is an important first step – a building block – towards addressing inequality.
“In Shropshire, we are lagging significantly behind the UK average in areas such as average wages, and access to high-speed communications.
“So any strategy which pledges to close the gap between the haves and the have-nots through improving services such as education, broadband and transport can only be welcomed.
“But it is slightly disappointing that we have been overlooked in the first wave of priority projects, given that we have one of the lowest funded local authorities in the country, per head of population.”
Mr Sheehan added: “Another of the 12 pledges – that the whole UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population – will be particularly pivotal for Shropshire, which has a lot of ground to make up.
“We need to see evidence that the levelling up agenda recognises the particular infrastructure challenges faced by our large and predominantly rural county.
“The most important thing now, though, is simply to see these ambitions turning into delivery. Levelling up has been a soundbite for many months – people need to start seeing tangible evidence of what it actually means.”
The White Paper includes policies which the British Chambers of Commerce has long been lobbying for, such as improved infrastructure, widespread 5G internet, local skills planning and devolution of funding decisions to a more local level.
Mr Sheehan said: “As a Chamber we are very much in favour of greater devolution to speed up and better prioritise decision-making. However, it must be fully accountable to the needs of businesses, and local communities.
“We also welcome any moves to give local decision-makers greater autonomy to use Government funding to address areas of greatest challenge or opportunity in their local communities over the long term.”