This year’s Autumn Budget from the Chancellor of the Exchequer focused squarely in one direction: up.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, all eyes were on Rishi Sunak to pave the way for sustainable economic recovery - and the North East was no exception.
The Chancellor’s Levelling Up agenda has already begun to focus on the North East from the outset with the announcement of £100m investment into regional initiatives.
Among the region’s projects set to benefit from the multi-billion-pound Levelling Up Fund are the restoration of Newcastle's historic Grainger Market and commitments to the North East’s community and were also demonstrated, with funding going towards the creation of a new sports facility in the West Denton area of Newcastle.
Infrastructure across the UK is set for a boost across rail, road and air. Specific reference to rail projects such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail were absent from the Budget announcement, and along with previous delays to the publication of the Integrated Rail Plan, leaves room for much-needed clarity around the delivery of these vital projects.
The reduction in Air Passenger Duty on domestic return flights could result in increased investment into the region from other parts of the UK. This, coupled with the extension of airport support following the coronavirus crisis, could place the region’s two airports and surrounding areas at an economic advantage. However, this move does sit in opposition to the wider conversation on carbon emissions ahead of COP26.
While the Chancellor remained quiet on the green industrial revolution, he did outline investment relief for businesses using green technology such as solar panels. As a burgeoning world leader in green industries following significant investment into energy transition projects across the region, such as the recently announced £107bn Teesside offshore wind project, the North East is ideally placed to take advantage of this.
While the Budget did offer several opportunities for levelling up in the region, there is concern among SMEs around how rises in wages and taxes are going to affect their businesses.