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‘Adopt regional approach to Covid-19 recovery’ urges new North-East policy think tank

26 October 2020 @TeessideUni


Current debate around the introduction of new restrictions on a regional basis has highlighted the need for collaboration, discourse and insight when designing and implementing policy.

Looking ahead to the critical economic needs post-Covid-19, it is clear that the Tees Valley’s ability to recover from the impact of the pandemic will depend on the UK Government’s willingness to devolve key regeneration decisions to the regions.

These are the findings of PACE, a new think tank dedicated to the dissemination and discussion of Tees Valley policy research.

In the first report published by PACE, Post-Covid recovery – what now for regional growth, Dr Nick Gray, a research associate at Teesside University and Dionne Lee, Policy Lead at PACE, argue that a Whitehall-centric approach to the aftermath of coronavirus risks failing to take into account the unique needs of regions such as Tees Valley which could ultimately lead to the failure of the government’s levelling-up agenda.

The report makes the following recommendations and observations:

  • Levelling up is a hazy concept in need of greater clarity on exactly what it is and where it applies.
  • In the face of pressing economic challenges, regional policy must try to retain a focus on the long term aspirations for economic growth.
  • Regional and local actors should play a key role in economic recovery and growth; government must trust them and provide them with proper resources.
  • Aiming higher means looking further than well-worn regional development tools such as tax incentives and capital spending on eye catching projects.
  • The possibility of a wider spread of public spending on research and development could offer opportunities for the region to boost growth and address some of Tees Valley’s long-term social and economic challenges.
  • Low skills and skills shortages remain a challenge. Any levelling up conversation must prioritise investment in human capital and raising educational attainment at all levels.

Dr Gray said: 'This report shows that if the Tees Valley hopes to recover and thrive after the Covid-19 pandemic, effective multi-level partnership working is required. Teesside has a long standing history of effective partnership and it is essential that government work with local and regional actors to builds on this to minimise impact and support regional growth.'

This report shows that if the Tees Valley hopes to recover and thrive after the Covid-19 pandemic effective multi-level partnership working is required.

Dr Nick Gray

As well as academics from Teesside University, PACE brings together policy and communication experts from across the Tees Valley to produce policy papers, research and thought-leadership to enhance the profile of the Tees Valley and help shape policy.

Professor Paul Crawshaw, Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities & Law at Teesside University, said: 'Evidence shows that, for areas like the Tees Valley, the Covid-19 pandemic will further deepen already entrenched inequalities. If the rhetoric of levelling up is to become reality, decision makers must take the findings of this report seriously and act now to instigate intersectoral collaboration and ambitious economic investment in people and industries.'

Paul Drechsler CBE, Chancellor of Teesside University and former President of the Confederation of British Industry, added: 'As the United Kingdom develops plans to recover from the significant and long term impact of the coronavirus, it is imperative that Government takes a highly effective and pragmatic approach and that policy is able to flex to support the unique needs, core industries and capabilities, and growth sectors of each region.

'The impact of Covid-19 will be deeper and longer term in certain areas, and this must be factored in if we are to achieve a swift and successful economic turnaround.

'I am delighted to see this highlighted and to endorse the recommendations in this excellent new report. I encourage policymakers to consider and take into account the expertise and insight across regions, and to ensure routes to bring this into future decision-making.'

In the News

'Adopt regional approach to recovery' of Covid urges new policy think tank
Northern Echo
Experts argue that a Whitehall-centric approach to the aftermath of coronavirus risks failing to take into account the unique needs of regions. Teesside University joins the debate.