A group of North East business leaders have met for the second time, this time in Blyth, as part of an informal advisory group on ‘levelling up’.

Earlier this month the government released its Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, an ambition first identified in the Conservative Party’s 2019 election manifesto.

At a lunchtime event held at Tharsus, sponsored by Square One Law and Recognition PR, twenty businesses representing a full spectrum of sectors, from across the region, met to discuss the government’s preliminary proposals.

The proposed, Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill sets out a number of key proposals, including:

  • Plans to devolve powers to local and regional government structures
  • A new infrastructure levy on developments
  • Formalising arrangements for mayoral development corporations
  • Powers for local authorities to manage vacant high street properties
  • Changes to planning regulations and procedures

Ian Gilthorpe, senior partner at Square One Law, said: “I want to thank the 20 business leaders who joined us to discuss the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill in detail. As sector leaders operating in one of the regions where the concept of levelling up is most pertinent, we are well-placed to offer support to the government in achieving its ambitions.”

Members of the advisory group include senior figures from across Tyneside and Teesside. Companies represented include: Tharsus, Tier One Capital, NE1, Naylors Gavin Black, Lanchester Wines, Turntide and Hellens Group.

The group discussed a range of the issues raised within the Bill but overwhelmingly, its dominant view was that in order to flourish, business and industry in the region needs support in developing the right skills mix.

Stephen Patterson, CEO of Newcastle NE1, Newcastle’s business improvement district, one of the group’s members, said: “When you speak to businesses, their priority is skills. And the government’s approach needs to embed a focus on skills at a much earlier stage in the education process.

“The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is a fantastic start but it’s something we’re going to have to build upon, both at a local level, using the new powers that it offers, and with central government to determine what ‘levelling up 2.0’, will look like in the future.