Chamber President calls on Prime Minister to end delay and dither

Leeds Chamber President Amanda Beresford addressed those in attendance at the Leeds Chamber Annual Dinner last night, her speech can be found in full below: A very warm welcome to the 2020 Leeds Chamber Annual Dinner and my first as your president. I am delighted to see so many of you in attendance. Events like this take much planning and support and I would like to start by thanking this year’s sponsor LNER. Your support is greatly appreciated. I have been involved with the Chamber and its policy activities for many years, leading the planning group and representing our members on the national Chamber planning expert panel. However, it was only when I got more involved, as a board director, vice-president and now your president that I have got to know the full breadth of Chamber activities. Many of you in the room already engage with our policy team and thank you for your ongoing support. * But, were you aware that in the last year the Chamber facilitated exports worth nearly £1 billion? * Did you know we invested £7m creating 175 new companies, creating or safeguarding 820 jobs, whilst adding £31m to our regional economy? * Did you know Chamber members employed around one quarter of the population in West & North Yorkshire? * Did you know that in the last 12 months the Chamber’s portfolio of serviced offices and industrial units provided a home for 91 businesses valued at over £57m employing 354 people? For companies across our region, from start-up to mature established businesses, across all sectors and sizes there is something in our proposition that all can benefit from and I would encourage each and everyone of you to spread the word. As the genuine voice of regional business, we have had, once again, another very busy year representing your interests to policy makers. The Brexit roadblock, which for three years has stalled decision-making and held up investment, has now been cleared. For better or worse, we depart the European Union tomorrow. The real work now begins to frame future relations with our largest trading partner. The Chamber position remains unchanged in that we need to avoid a disorderly exit at the end of 2020. We will continue to urge all companies to review our Brexit checklist to ensure they are prepared for opportunities in the future. Aside from Brexit, however, we must not take our eye off the fundamentals that we need to get right to ensure Leeds, the economic powerhouse of the region, has the best environment for business to prosper. Matters such as skills and availability of labour, business costs, digital and transport connectivity, the right amount of development, including housing, in the right places, dealing with the climate emergency – these are all central to the success of commerce in the area. HS2 On the subject of transport infrastructure, this Chamber has been a long-standing supporter of high-speed rail connectivity. There remains much speculation about the delivery of HS2, with concerns about escalating costs.. I read in the London headquartered newspapers that the North only needs Northern Powerhouse Rail. That is not correct and demonstrates a fatal misunderstanding of both HS2 and NPR and their inter-relationship. The North and the UK needs both HS2 and NPR. We need to press ahead with both schemes to deliver the unprecedented economic and social benefits that will accrue. Indeed, proposals for NPR and HS2 should be considered as one. Improved economic performance is rightly one of the key benefits that HS2 will bring but there is also a range of social and environmental improvements that it will deliver, and which should not be overlooked. These include providing a low carbon travel alternative to the car or plane, taking cars and lorries off the roads because of the additional space created on the existing network, and as electricity generation decarbonises, HS2 journeys will become progressively more environmentally friendly. I was heartened to read that amendments are proposed to the way in which the “Green Book” approach to investment is currently undertaken. The North has for too long suffered from an outdated funding methodology which to date favours investment in London and the South East. The transformation which great connectivity brings should not be overlooked; it is no coincidence that the great Victorian cities grew as a result of investment in canals, rail and road. In his electoral campaign the Prime Minister called for “An end to delay and dither”, a view we support very strongly. Our Victorian-era railway network has served the country well but is now desperately in need of investment and improvement. We have the opportunity to make a difference not only for today but for generations to come. Environment Another area the Chamber will be focusing on through 2020 is framing our response to the environmental challenges this country faces. Leeds City Council declared a climate emergency last year and as responsible businesses I believe it is our civic responsibility to make ourselves part of the solution. This is not something the council can deal with unilaterally. Through our recently formed Environment Group we will be bringing together ideas and making practical policy led solutions to help the city reach its ambitious net-zero target. I would encourage all interested businesses to get involved. Social Impact The Chamber’s long held view that ‘Doing good is good business’ has never been more relevant than to the environmental debate. Indeed social impact is also rising up the corporate agenda and this is reflected in our annual Raising the Bar awards. 2019 saw a record number of entries as companies seek to celebrate all of the great things they do over and above their core business. Environment, education, economy and communities all benefit from the activities of regional businesses. If you haven’t measured your social impact then we can help you. Continuing this theme, my chosen charity this year is The Market Place. They are an independent charity founded in 1989 that provide free information, support and counselling to young people aged 11-25 in Leeds. The Market Place believes all young people are experts in their own lives and have the right to feel safe and secure, to be treated with respect, and to feel good about themselves. Tonight’s prize draw will raise funds for this excellent charity and I would encourage you to dig deep. I look forward to representing your views on all of these matters over the course of my presidency. Last year in her speech at this dinner, my predecessor Paula Dillon officially welcomed Channel 4 to Leeds. So I am absolutely thrilled that this year we will hear from Sinead Rocks, Managing Director, Regions & Nations at Channel 4.

Guests also heard Sinead Rocks, managing director, nations and regions at Channel 4 about the organisations move to Leeds. In an upbeat and inspiring speech Sinead talks about how she had led the BBC move to Salford and the significant impact the move had generated in the region. She shared how TV production companies and those who wanted to be in the orbit of the BBC had led to major regeneration of this former rundown  docks area. “The impact for Leeds and Bradford would be even greater” she suggested. The Chamber looks forward to working with Channel 4 to help it deliver on its “4 all the UK” campaign.

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