It’s no secret that over the past 12 months businesses right across Lancashire have battled against negative headwinds.
High energy prices hitting our energy intensive manufacturers, wage pressures in hospitality, inflation hitting consumer spending and supply chain issues for some of our key sectors.
But we have also seen huge successes. Levelling Up funding has poured into Lancashire, Eden North got the go-ahead, the National Cyber Force continues to take shape, and our education providers are stepping forward to support the Local Skills Improvement Plans.
But for continued progress you can’t stand still and chalk up your wins, nor focus only on the challenges. That’s why a big focal point for MPs, me included, is speaking to our business communities in the run up to major events like the Autumn Statement, and feeding in views to HM Treasury.
It was therefore positive to see the chancellor focusing on growth in this statement and setting the scene for a continued focus in the Spring Budget 2024.
Changes were made to tax and welfare to better support people into work; full expensing was made permanent; business rates relief on leisure, retail and hospitality were extended further; and a speedy planning process was announced – allowing businesses to pay for a faster decision which will be refunded if local authorities don’t meet the advertised times. All designed to spur on economic growth.
We’ve also seen a major turning point in Lancashire’s future, with a devolution deal now announced and the consultation running. If approved this will see greater decision making here in our county on issues like economic growth, skills, employment, and public transport.
This will have a major impact on the services received by businesses and residents.
But, most crucially, it fires the starting gun. The door is now open to us to seize the opportunity, make this deal work for us by incentivising growth and investment across the county, and then push for greater devolution beyond what has now been agreed.
That is what happened in Manchester, Birmingham, and Teesside, and we see the positive results.
I’d encourage all businesses to respond to the consultation setting out your views, and where you want to see devolution go next.
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