Covid Recovery Commission sets out blueprint for a National Prosperity Plan to boost growth and living standards over the next decade

  • 10 of the UK’s top business leaders recommend a new compact with government and civic leaders as part of a blueprint to ensure the UK can develop world beating industries and support people as they recover from the pandemic and transition to the jobs of the future.
  • Report proposes the introduction of a National Prosperity Scorecard to measure ‘levelling up’ against a set of social as well as economic indicators, a ‘Help to Train’ scheme to halve the projected skills deficit by 2030 and a National Deal for Net Zero Homes including a call on government to retrofit every council house in the UK.

Some of the UK’s leading business figures have set out the blueprint for a National Prosperity Plan to help create globally competitive industries in every part of the UK, deliver on the government’s net zero commitments and reduce the economic and social inequalities that have been widened as a result of the pandemic.

The Covid Recovery Commission of 10 business leaders, including Chairs and Chief Executives representing AstraZeneca, Heathrow, Vodafone, Shell and Tesco, has published a major report today, ‘Ambition 2030’: A Partnership for Growth’. The paper argues that, “the pandemic has had a bigger impact on our economy than any event in the last 300 years.” Analysis by the Commission reveals that the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities with unemployment, mortality rates and mental health cases rising fastest in the most deprived communities across the UK. It also shows that 18% of the most deprived people – 1.15 million people – in the UK are living in local authorities with the highest economic output.

The report sets out the case for a new compact between purpose-led business, government and civic leaders to deliver real and lasting change in every part of the country. Key to the Prosperity Plan is the creation of a National Prosperity Scorecard. This would set specific metrics against the Government’s ‘levelling up’ plans to assess and track progress on a key set of social as well as economic indicators including employment and benefit dependency rates as well as health and educational outcomes. Local leaders would also be tasked with developing their own Local Prosperity Plans to help drive growth in every part of the UK.

John Allan, Chair of the Covid Recovery Commission:

“A National Prosperity Scorecard will be key to evaluating the success or failure of local plans to level up communities. By looking beyond purely economic measures, it could also act as a vital warning light for local communities. Measures on the scorecard should include issues which are important to families such as mental and physical health, community resilience and transport connectivity. They should be set by central government but then it should be up to local leaders to drive local action.”

The Commission’s final report, which has been authored by WPI Economics, is the culmination of 10 months’ work, where the group consulted over 100 public policy specialists, academics, business groups as well as representatives from the devolved nations and each of the 8 Combined Mayoral Authorities. The report includes a package of further policy recommendations including:

  • The creation at least one new globally competitive industry cluster in every part of the UK by 2030, primarily by harnessing the UK’s research firepower with highly skilled workers, fast growing businesses, and domestic and foreign investment.
  • A commitment to develop a Great British Supply Chain. As part of this plan, the Crown Commercial Service and the Infrastructure Projects Authority would be merged into the Government Consulting Service, a social purpose company owned by Government with a remit to use Government procurement and major project delivery to support the development of a Great British Supply Chain.
  • A ‘Help to Train’ scheme to assist in halving the projected skills gap by 2030. This includes a radical overhaul of the Apprenticeship Levy and the introduction of a Lifelong Learning Account, which would allow people from the age of 25 to access a pot of money worth as much as £10,000 to spend on upskilling and retraining courses during their working lives.
  • A National Deal for Net Zero homes. A 15 year pathway to decarbonisation of the housing stock including a commitment by Government to make every social home in the UK as energy efficient as possible by 2030 and the introduction of a Green Homes Bond, a social impact bond to provide the upfront funding for retrofit of buildings in return for a long-term share in savings made through cheaper energy bills.
  • The creation of anew Community Infrastructure Endowment Fund to match-fund business investment in communities and the introduction of a Wellbeing at Work Guarantee: ensuring that, by 2025, all employees across the UK have immediate and costless access to support for their mental health.

Virginia Simmons, Managing Partner, UK & Ireland, McKinsey & Company

“Successful local and national Prosperity Plans can help to integrate all that is great about Britain: its leading universities, world-class innovation and R&D, its businesses and financial system, its democracy, institutions and governance. They can help to ensure that Britain’s engines of growth and prosperity are firing into the next decade and that business, government, institutions and civic society work together in a fully integrated fashion.”

Tom Keith Roach, Chief Executive of Astra Zeneca UK

“Our response to COVID-19 has shown the vital importance of collaboration between purpose-led business, Government, academia and regulators in delivering an urgent, ambitious national agenda on behalf of the British people. It’s clear we now need to align and unleash all our strength behind a new national imperative to build a stronger, fairer and more resilient economy whilst accelerating our move to net zero.”

Manoj Badale, Co-founder and Joint Managing Partner of Blenheim Chalcot

“Innovation is the bedrock that will create value added growth across the UK. To foster innovation, we need a new compact between business and government. This collaboration has to be focused on some core national imperatives including driving up the standard of skills and especially technical education in the UK and unlocking capital from institutional investors so that SMEs can access the finance they need to scale up. It also requires the government to work with business on which industries will give the UK a globally competitive advantage.”

Sinead Lynch, Chair of Shell UK:

“Delivering on net zero will fundamentally change the way our economy works and how we lead our lives. This presents a challenge, but it also provides an opportunity to develop globally competitive clusters, built around a strong UK supply chain, focussed on green growth and exporting to the rest of the world.”

“A key part of making net zero a reality is making it as easy and affordable as possible for homes and businesses. We know from the Climate Assembly that cost and disruption are the two biggest barriers to home retrofit, for example, but successive government schemes have added rather than eased the complexity. That is why we are proposing a new approach: a customer-led National Deal on Net Zero Homes – a negotiation between households, industry and government to set out the barriers to decarbonising homes; how industry can best overcome these; and a commitment from government to provide the policy and financial backing industry needs to invest.”

Ian Funnell, Chief Executive UK & Ireland, Hitachi ABB Power Grids

“Digitisation and decarbonisation are not only essential in tackling climate change, but also have the potential to create many hundreds of thousands of new jobs, increase the skills required for others and significantly change skills requirements across the UK. This necessitates national action on retraining and upskilling our workforce. A Help to Train package of measures, as set out by the Commission, which includes a major overhaul of the apprenticeship levy and the introduction of an independent learning account that gives people the financial support needed to upskill during their working lives will be critical if we are to ensure that no one gets left behind as we transition to a tech enabled, net zero economy.”

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport:

“A stable policy environment and long-term National Prosperity Plan will help to deliver investment certainty across the UK, attract investment from outside of the UK and provide a foundation for determining the priority markets for trade deals.

“Doing so in a way that also ensures that businesses of all sizes can prosper is vital. Part of this will mean ensuring that the Great British Supply Chain is reinvigorated and is the driving force behind our globally competitive industries. It will also mean supporting more UK businesses to find and build global markets for their products and services, particularly SMEs, where current export potential is not being realised.”

Annette Court, Chair of Admiral Insurance Group and NED at Sage Group

“With the current economic crisis set to have a scarring effect on many school leavers and recent graduates, it is more important than ever to support skills development, particularly for those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Furthermore, this is an opportunity to encourage innovation and entrepreneurialism from this generation by creating the conditions for young people to contribute to the wider economic recovery.”

“Key to this will be fostering closer links between councils, local businesses and institutions. That is why the Commission’s proposal to review the apprenticeship levy, as well as to create Local Prosperity Plans drawn up and delivered by local stakeholders, is so important in identifying and overcoming the barriers that younger people face in trying to enter the workplace as well as set up and grow a business from scratch.”

Ahmed Essam, Chief Executive, Vodafone UK

“The pandemic has reinforced the power and importance of connectivity. For all our customers, from multinational corporations to bedroom start-ups and families at risk of being left behind, it has been a lifeline during an unprecedented period. Moving forward, it will be the vehicle of recovery, as well as the foundation for innovation and growth. Whether it is the way we learn, work or have fun, being online and connected is shaping the future and it will be the engine for success in many industries.”

“However, making digital work does not just rely on building world-class infrastructure. It also needs Government, regulators and industry to work in partnership to deliver programmes and policy that supports the investment needed in digital infrastructure, and makes it accessible to all. To make this a reality, the Commission is calling for regulators to consider competitiveness, the investment environment and growth, alongside consumer protection. And this should not be taken as a lesson for digital investment alone, but wherever growth is required to fund future British prosperity.”

Ruth Cairnie, Chair of Babcock International Group

“As a Commission, we believe that businesses have a broader role to play in supporting and driving the delivery of shared societal goals. This includes working with other businesses, government and society, to ensure people and communities are supported as we recover from the pandemic and transition to a higher skilled and more resilient economy. This needs to happen both centrally and within the communities where we work.”

“It is becoming more and more recognised that growth, productivity and all aspects of employee wellbeing go hand in hand. Building employee resilience should be a central part of the Covid recovery, including tackling mental health. One in four adults in the UK suffered from poor mental health each year before Covid and this is likely to have increased significantly. That is why the Commission believes that, by 2025 at the latest, everyone in the UK should have access to support and resources to improve their mental health. At Babcock, we will aim to increase the awareness of the mental health support that we make available to our employees and their families’.”