Top business leaders lay out ‘national prosperity’ plan to boost living standards after pandemic

Bosses from Tesco, AstraZeneca, Vodafone urge government to deliver on levelling-up agenda with investment across the country

Ben Chapman@b_c_chapman
Wednesday 28 April 2021 07:12
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Leaders from some of the UK's top businesses are urging the government to back a plan to boost prosperity and reduce inequality as the country recovers from the pandemic.

Executives from the likes of Tesco, AstraZeneca, Vodafone and Shell have laid out proposals for greater co-operation between government and business which they hope will raise living standards and ensure that the government hits its net zero emissions target.

The Covid Recovery Commission is calling for a renewed focus on social measures of progress and the creation of at least one new globally competitive industry hub in every part of the UK by 2030.

Its report warns that coronavirus has exacerbated existing inequalities with unemployment, mortality rates and mental health cases rising fastest in the most deprived communities.

The commission - which formed last July - wants to work with local civic leaders and the government to deliver the so-called levelling agenda up through a “national prosperity” plan.

Its report proposes a National Prosperity Scorecard which would set specific metrics to track progress on levelling-up aims. Progress would be measured against social indicators such as employment and benefit dependency rates, health and educational outcomes.

The commission's chair John Allan, who is also chairman of Tesco and housebuilder Barratt Developments, said: "A National Prosperity Scorecard will be key to evaluating the success or failure of local plans to level up communities.

"By looking beyond purely economic measures, it could also act as a vital warning light for local communities."

The commission is also recommending an overhaul of the much-criticised Apprenticeship Levy and the introduction of a “Help to Train” scheme to halve the projected skills deficit by 2030.

This would include a new Lifelong Learning Account offering those aged 25 and over up to £10,000 to upskill and retrain throughout their working lives.

to meet environmental targets, the group wants the government to decarbonise housing and commit to retrofitting all council houses to make them as energy efficient as possible.

Mr Allan said: "To deliver the economic recovery, successful local and national prosperity plans will need to integrate everything which is great about Britain: our leading universities, world-class innovation, our business community, our democracy, our institutions and governance.

"This will ensure that these engines of growth and prosperity are turbocharged in the next decade and that business, government and civic society work together to create jobs and drive investment."

Other proposals put forward in the report include ensuring all UK workers have free access to mental health support by 2025, as well as the launch of a government-owned social purpose company to develop a Great British Supply Chain.

Tom Keith-Roach, UK president of drugs giant and Covid-19 vaccine developer AstraZeneca, said: "It's clear we now need to align and unleash all our strength behind a new national imperative to build a stronger, fairer and more resilient economy whilst accelerating our move to net zero."

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, said: "A stable policy environment and long-term National Prosperity Plan will help to deliver investment certainty across the UK, attract investment from outside of the UK and provide a foundation for determining the priority markets for trade deals."

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