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We can blaze a trail, says NEECC chief exec John McCabe

 North East England Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive John McCabe on his New Year wishlist

THERE are a number of things I’m looking forward to in 2022.

At the top of the list is a clear definition of what levelling up means to this Government and some clear evidence of how it is going to be delivered across the North East.

The Northern Echo has been tremendous at setting out the ways we could improve our economy and it sends a powerful message that more has to be done to release our potential.

The good news is in the North East business community it’s fair to say we already know what levelling up means to us and how to measure it.

Read more: All our Level Up stories are here

For example, we know our region will only be operating on the same basis as other parts of the UK when gaps in employment, education, pay, wealth and health have been closed forevermore.

This isn’t a woke agenda. It’s just plain decency and common sense and there is an undeniable business case for all of this.

Covid has had a devastating effect on people, business and our way of life. The issues I’ve mentioned were heightened by the pandemic but they weren’t caused by it. The gaps were there before, they’re just wider now and their effects are being felt more intensely.

In the past 18 months to support our business community in the widest sense we’ve taken strides into new areas traditionally beyond the role of a Chamber of Commerce.

We’ve created a race, ethnicity and diversity (RED) commission, joined a campaign on child poverty and lobbied Government with a call for health outcomes to be central to levelling up.

Read more: Chamber appoints its new Chief Exec

These strides have been taken because the conversation has shifted, even though the ultimate aim – a better economy and business environment – has stayed the same.

These issues represent structural inequalities in our economy.

They prevent us from reaching our true potential as a region. And they represent a ceiling on opportunity that we can no longer accept.

Everyone who finds their opportunities limited; every child who doesn’t get the start they deserve; every adult who is kept out of the workforce or finds their career stunted by ill health…they are all economic contributions being missed.

These people represent fresh ideas, new skills, different talents and perspectives which businesses are going to lose out on.

2022 will present challenges but rest assured we are working hard on solutions to support businesses wherever we can so we go into the New Year in the best possible shape.

We have produced a Good Work report which has a host of great ideas on how to be the best possible employer, which is positive for staff and the bottom line.

And to help reduce the gender pay gap in the region through our Women’s Leadership Forum we now have a toolkit to help businesses ensure they have a fair salary structure which rewards people equally.

I wish everyone in our business community all the best for 2022 and hope the next 12 months sees our region blazing a trail and on its way to being truly levelled up.


If you want to join the Level Up campaign, contact

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