Leeds is now one of the most attractive places in the North for inward foreign investment and has benefited from this significantly in the past two years. We need to build on this growth by staying in the EU to enhance job prospects for local people. We should not ignore the findings from a recent survey carried out by Ernst & Young where 79% of foreign investors cite access to the European Single market, as an important driver of the UK's attractiveness.
Leeds is successful because it has made use of its most valuable resource - its talented and hardworking people. It is the most productive city in the northern powerhouse region, according to the think tank Centre for Cities. But every city needs investment in order to thrive and EU money has helped the city grow. And there is more to come. The Leeds City Region has been allocated £338 million of funding from the EU to support business growth and create jobs over the next seven to ten years. This includes funding for local people to ensure they have the skills.
The Tory Government likes to talk about the Northern Powerhouse because it appeals to voters but the reality doesn't match their rhetoric. Experts agree that Leeds desperately needs transport links to be dramatically improved in order to fulfil its potential. Upgrading connections with other cities in the north is important, but a report by the Centre for Cities published this week, found that improving transport networks within cities like Leeds will boost economic growth far more dramatically because it would enable people to travel more easily across their city. Yet George Osborne has cancelled key transport projects that would have made that possible, including the trolleybus system, which is essential in order for the city to grow the local economy.
Leeds' proud past as a financial service and manufacturing hub has stood it in good stead for the future. The city that once was a powerhouse in the textiles industry that fuelled the industrial revolution and is now famous for Tetley’s beer and tea recently attracted a £50m investment from Burberry, which will manufacture its world-famous trench coat in Leeds. And the city which was once home to a thriving stock exchange, is again at the centre of Yorkshire and the Humber’s financial services, employing 128,000 people and generating over £10 billion for the UK economy each year. If we leave the EU, many of those jobs will be under threat. You might think that Boris Johnson or Michael Gove will protect those jobs, but I wouldn't bank on it.