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Top business leaders call for Government action on ‘national prosperity’ plan

The Covid Recovery Commission warns the pandemic has widened social and economic inequalities across Britain.

A raft of leaders from some of the UK’s biggest companies are calling on the Government to back their “national prosperity” plan to boost growth and living standards as Britain recovers from the pandemic.

Ten top business figures from the likes of Tesco, AstraZeneca, Vodafone and Royal Dutch Shell have set out a 10-year blueprint for action to help UK industry prosper, address social and economic inequalities and deliver on the Government’s net zero commitments.

In a report by the Covid Recovery Commission, called Ambition 2030: A Partnership for Growth, they warn the pandemic has widened inequalities, with deprived areas suffering the most from unemployment, death rates and mental health issues.

The commission – which formed last July – wants to work with the Government and local civic leaders to tackle so-called levelling up.

A key plank of its plans is the launch of a National Prosperity Scorecard to track the Government’s progress on levelling-up aims, measuring them against social as well as economic indicators, such as employment and benefit dependency rates, health and educational outcomes.

The commission’s chair John Allan, who is also chairman of Tesco and housebuilder Barratt Developments, said: “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.”

The commission is also recommending a Help to Train scheme to halve the projected skills deficit by 2030.

This would include a radical overhaul of the Apprenticeship Levy and a new Lifelong Learning Account offering those aged 25 and over up to £10,000 to upskill and retrain throughout their working lives.

And as part of net zero goals, it wants the Government to decarbonise the housing stock and commit to retrofitting every council house to make them as energy efficient as possible.

Mr Allan said: “To deliver the economic recovery, successful local and national prosperity plans will need to integrate everything which is great about Britain: our leading universities, world-class innovation, our business community, our democracy, our institutions and governance.

“This will ensure that these engines of growth and prosperity are turbocharged in the next decade and that business, government and civic society work together to create jobs and drive investment.”

Other proposals put forward in the report include ensuring all UK workers have free access to mental health support by 2025, as well as the launch of a government-owned social purpose company to develop a Great British Supply Chain.

Tom Keith-Roach, UK president of drugs giant and Covid-19 vaccine developer AstraZeneca, said: “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.”

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, said: “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.”