The boost given to the Government’s regional rebalancing agenda in the recent local elections has been boosted further by the aims set out in the Queen’s Speech, according to a leading commercial property economist.
Commenting on the Queen’s Speech, Dr Walter Boettcher, head of Research & Economics, said: “The regional rebalancing agenda may have been given a fresh boost by the local election results, but even more decisive was its inclusion in the Queen’s Speech, where it was promoted as a key to underpinning the COVID-19 economic recovery strategy.
“While the local election results gave the Government an unequivocal mandate to accelerate their regional development, the Queen’s Speech has made clear that regional rebalancing will be a legislative priority for the coming session of Parliament.”
However, Dr Boettcher added that while the Conservatives had fared well compared to Labour at the polls, it was clear from the results of the ‘Metro Mayor’ elections that there was no room for complacency.
“Interestingly, the Conservatives lost ground in their relatively new devolved regional mayoral system with only Andy Street in Birmingham and Ben Houchen in Tees Valley retaining their seats.
“How this impacts the focus of central government infrastructural investment remains to be seen, given that the innovative elements of their devolution development programme is not widely appreciated by all but a few Conservatives who were there when it was launched by George Osborne in 2014. Nevertheless, strong support for the Northern Powerhouse is still evident in the Labour stronghold of the North West.”
Dr Boettcher cautioned that Scotland posed a different set of development challenges for Boris Johnson’s government because of its “additional tier of government and a leadership intent on organising another independence referendum.”
But he added: “Judging by sterling’s sudden strength following the local elections, investors do not look overly ‘spooked’ by the possibility of a new referendum.
“Despite pro-independence media briefings, the Scottish election results looks less than compelling to many investors given the lack of an outright majority by its leading proponent; hence expectations may be that an early referendum is unlikely.
“This gives the Conservative government time to implement its own much delayed national regional rebalancing manifesto, nurture the fledgling post-COVID-19 economic recovery that is increasingly apparent, and manage a further bedding in of post-Brexit trade and relations. Barring any new misfortunes or delays in implementing their legislative programme, time may be on the UK Government’s side.”