Following a landslide victory for Labour, Carrie Sudbury, Chief Executive of Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber, talks unLTD through what changes local businesses might expect from the incoming government…

It would have taken a brave person to predict anything other than a Labour majority in South Yorkshire, but the scale of the national victory is something that hasn’t been seen since the days of Tony Blair.

Perhaps the stark contrast between that seismic win and this year’s Labour victory is that Kier Starmer didn’t ride into Downing Street with the wave of optimism and hope that epitomised the late 1990s, but the result of disillusionment and disenfranchisement. Less than half of voters turned out in the Barnsley constituencies, and the results were only marginally better in Rotherham.

Labour has pledged to place rebuilding Britain’s stagnant economy at the heart of its manifesto plans.

The greatest challenge facing the new Government will be how to deliver on the promises they have made to an expectant electorate clamouring for change – and for Barnsley & Rotherham, delivering a true levelling up agenda that will transform the local economy.

The new Prime Minister must learn from the lessons of his predecessors and remember that although the country is crying out for change, the penalty for failure will be stark.

As always, the devil will be in the detail. In the election campaign Labour placed economic growth at the heart of its plans.  It must now deliver on those promises. Of course, the vagueness of some of Labour’s pre-election announcements is likely to give them some leeway, but not much.

The cost of living crisis, high energy bills, the amount of time it takes to see a dentist or doctor are all key areas that voters will be expecting the new Government to address swiftly. With limited funds at their disposal and a commitment not to increase taxation, I suspect there will be some difficult choices ahead.

One thing is very clear though, if the Government is to fulfil its election promises, overseeing a significant period of economic growth will be vital to underwriting its future spending commitments.

Labour’s plans to develop a new industrial strategy, opportunities presented through the green economy, emerging new technologies and advanced manufacturing all present golden opportunities for South Yorkshire’s businesses community.

Yet at the same time, South Yorkshire’s business economy lags behind the national average when it comes to productivity and business growth. The new government must, therefore, create an environment in which businesses can truly prosper. This means much more than throwing money at short term solutions, but laying the foundations that will underpin an environment in which businesses in the region can truly prosper.

Carrie Sudbury, Chief Executive of Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber
Carrie Sudbury, Chief Executive of Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber

Similarly, I hope that Labour will deliver on its promises to reform the broken planning system and reform business rates, both of which will play a vital role, not only in stimulating growth, but rebuilding our decimated high streets.

The fanfare of Levelling Up promised to deliver a new deal for the north, yet in reality few of these projects have realised their potential. It would not surprise me if pressures on the public purse will see some of these projects fail to materialise.

Every business faces its own individual and unique barriers to growth: for some it’s recruiting and retaining staff, for others it’s about passing skills and expertise to the next generation and securing investment. Achieving true Levelling Up means creating the mechanisms and infrastructure vital to unlocking that potential.

South Yorkshire now has a Labour Government, a Labour Mayor, and labour led local authorities, this should provide a degree of continuity when it comes to delivery. Investment in local public transport, for example, lags far behind other parts of the UK and this needs to balance needs to be redressed.

When a new Government comes to power, it is often the marginal seats which tend to reap the rewards. With some seats voting labour for the very first time in this year’s election, it’s likely that the Government will attempt to reward this trust.  My fear is that traditional safe Labour strongholds such as South Yorkshire will be overlooked in favour of those communities.

Similarly, historical Labour governments have typically resulted in increased financial burdens on businesses and saddling them with more red tape. When it comes to making long term investments, businesses require stability. The new Chancellor cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the ill-feted mini budget by going too hard and too fast when it comes to implementing Labour’s manifesto plans.

Labour made some bold announcements in securing the support of businesses, the Government must now deliver on those promises.

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