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Business & Economy

Labour ‘will get North East building again and end Tory failure’, vows Sir Keir Starmer

Labour will hand “Britain its future back” and end more than a decade of “Tory failure” if it secures power at the next election, the party’s leader has pledged.

Sir Keir Starmer said a Labour administration will “get the North East building again” by “bulldozing barriers to success”.

Overhauling planning rules to “provide businesses, communities and people with the conditions to succeed”, Sir Keir said the party will also transform skills development through new technical excellence colleges and roll out a fresh industrial strategy, complete with national wealth fund, to “invest in crucial infrastructure”.

The Labour leader made his promises today (Friday, November 3) during a visit to Clearly Drinks’ Sunderland plant and a Wynyard Hall-based North East Chamber of Commerce event, during which he called for change following years of Conservative “stagnation and sticking plaster politics”.

He said: “People have a choice between a Conservative party, which is hurtling down the only high-speed project it has ever managed to build – the highway to British decline – or Labour, which understands the potential that lies in regions like the North East, and has a plan to grow every corner of this country.”

Citing the long-running saga of plans to dual the A1 motorway between Morpeth and Ellingham, in Northumberland, he added: “The road is absolutely critical to doing business in this region, and there is a stretch the Prime Minister recently promised to upgrade.

“But there’s a catch, because he announced he would upgrade it in 2020, when he was Chancellor, just like Theresa May did in 2017, David Cameron did in 2014 and just like the Conservative manifesto promised in 2010.

“In the 1950s and 1960s, we built the backbone of our entire motorway system in less time than it has taken to talk about turning a stretch of the A1 into a dual carriageway.

“(The delay) is a metaphor for how our country has been run for the last 13 years, and a story you see right across Britain.”

Referencing Labour’s blueprint – unveiled just days before the King’s Speech, which will set out the Government’s plans for the next year – Sir Keir said his party would counter such failings by focusing on “the real problems that face the businesses and communities of this region”.

Pledging to build 1.5 million homes across the UK, Sir Keir promised his party would create “roads, warehouses, grid connections and laboratories – all built quicker and cheaper”, to help businesses, families and communities grow.

He added: “Where we find barriers to British success, we will bulldoze through them – new development corporations, new planning regimes, consequences for councils that drag their feet, reforms to judicial reviews; whatever it takes, we will find a way.”

Sir Keir said a Labour Government would also reform the education landscape, with new technical excellence colleges – which would specialise on specific sectors and work more closely with industry – matched by a new growth and skills levy that would hand employers greater training investment power.

He said: “A future must be trained, as well as built.

“And the cost of inaction cannot be overstated; £120 billion of economic output could be lost by 2030 if the needs of businesses are not met.



  • Sir Keir Starmer speaks to North East journalists during a visit to Clearly Drinks’ Sunderland factory


“We will transform the further education system with technical excellence colleges, which will have a stronger link to local economies, form connections to local skills improvement plans and have universities and businesses around the table to set the direction.

“It could mean colleges specialising in construction, clean energy or health and social care.

“We want to end the years of missing skills.”

He added: “Businesses should have more say over how they invest in their workforce, but, at the moment, the Apprenticeship Levy isn’t flexible enough.

“We would transform it into a new growth and skills levy, giving employers more power over the training their money could buy.”

Sir Keir also referenced his party’s proposed VAT hit on private schools, which he said would fund the appointment of 6500 extra state school teachers to “fix” an attainment “drop-off”.

He said: “Too many young people are leaving education without basic skills; maths, digital skills, communication and teamwork.

“We would deliver higher standards in our schools, with every child taught by expert teachers and a broader curriculum, to make sure the next generation are ready for work and life.

“That is what ending the tax breaks on private schools will deliver.”

Such moves, he said, would be complemented by a new industrial strategy, which would include a national wealth fund focused on delivering projects key to the country’s net-zero agenda.

He said: “The fund will stand with business, working to invest in the crucial infrastructure the North East needs.

“That includes the gigafactories that will protect electric battery manufacturing in Sunderland; the hydrogen and carbon capture technology that will provide an industrial future for Teesside; and the ability for ports to handle large industrial parts, so the east coast can lead the world in offshore wind.”

He added: “In a world where challenges like climate change, artificial intelligence and scientific advances like gene editing are constantly overturning the economic applecart, you need a Government that gets involved and offers the hand of partnership.

“Britain needs a new business model, and we will grow our country from the grassroots.”