13 Jul East of England leaders left in the cold from Investment Zones
As we approach one year since Investment Zones were first announced by then-chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng in the Autumn ‘mini-budget’, mid-market business leaders in the East of England fear they are missing out by not having one within their region.
In Grant Thornton’s latest Business Outlook Tracker* survey, almost all business leaders in the East of England (96%) said that the introduction of Investment Zones will help towards the government’s Levelling Up agenda, significantly higher than the 68% national average.
Most respondents (91%) also believe that being located within an Investment Zone would encourage businesses to stay within the local area and, almost all (94%) believe being located within one would help support the local region through resulting benefits such as job creation and skills development.
However, the survey also revealed that business leaders in the East of England believe that the 12 proposed locations are not completely adequate. Over three quarters (80%) of business leaders believe that there should be more Investment Zones located in other areas in the UK.
Currently, of the 12 proposed Investment Zones to be established across the UK, eight will be in England and four elsewhere, with at least one in each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Eight have already been shortlisted in England, with none included in the East of England.
Despite the frustration around not currently being shortlisted, 90% of East of England business leaders said the financial benefits of Investment Zones have been focused on the right issues to encourage business investment.
The high regard for Investment Zones within the East of England business community aligns with the fact that businesses have growing optimism about their business’ revenue (80%) and UK economy (84%) over the next six months.
James Brown, practice leader for Grant Thornton UK LLP in the East of England, said: “It was a disappointment for our region when the East of England was not among the preferred locations for the government’s Investment Zone programme earlier this year. Our survey shows that businesses in the region are well aware of the benefits Investment Zones could bring – and how they could be key to unlocking the East of England’s full economic potential.
“While there’s no denying the economic strength of Cambridge, targeted support for our other innovation hotspots such as Norwich, Ipswich or Stevenage would allow our region to kick on and move closer to the economic performance of the South East. Additionally, an area such as Peterborough – which has exciting plans for a knowledge intensive cluster at its university campus – has exactly the sort of socioeconomic profile that would benefit from being part of an investment zone and support the government’s levelling up ambitions.”