Yesterday we announced the launch of Supercharge East, a manifesto demanding action for East Anglia from the future leader of the UK.
The campaign, which will run from now until the general election, calls on the government to support our region in four key areas to boost business, strengthen the economy and help us realise our potential.
There is no one solution to the challenges we face, which is why we have cast our net wide for maximum impact across sectors.
Here is what we’re calling for:
:: A lack of access to fast broadband is holding back businesses across the board in rural parts of the region. In a world where a decent internet connection is a necessity, not a luxury, we must ensure everybody has the opportunity to connect.
:: Two crucial rail upgrades – the Ely area rail improvements and “redoubling” of Haughley Junction – have been promised, but unless funding and approvals happen quickly the work could be put back for another ten years. The region needs both projects to be authorised, the upgrade work prioritised and the service enhancements they enable, including more regular passenger services, delivered soon.
:: For too long East Anglia has been cut off from the rest of the UK due to outdated roads. Funding is needed to allow our local councils to complete much-needed projects to connect our major roads to the strategic network.
:: Business rates in the East are some of the highest in the country, with certain boroughs seeing increases of more than 22pc in the past 5 years. In one of the most difficult economic climates we’ve seen for decades, these obnoxiously high rates are setting our businesses up to fail.
:: Tourism is a key contributor to the local economy, but our boards cannot access funding ring-fenced for Local Visitor Economy Partnerships. We want our DMOs to get equal funding.
:: Supply chain issues are the number one concern for businesses in East Anglia. The government must do more to tackle material and labour shortages, including implementing flexible migration policies that are responsive to demand.
:: The proportion of critical assets in disrepair has almost tripled in the east of England since 2018, leaving huge swathes of the region at risk of flooding. Urgent funding is needed to allow the Environment Agency to follow through on the proposed new defences axed last year.
:: To ensure food security and a sustainable agriculture industry, government policies must encourage farmers to grow food, as well as maintaining funding for new environmental incentives while EU subsidies are being phased out. East Anglia’s farmers also need access to water for irrigation, fair prices across the supply chain and protection from cheap imports produced to lower standards than are required here.
:: A cohesive water management plan is urgently needed to protect precious resources under the increased threat of droughts. Investment is needed in vital public water infrastructure for homes and business, and farmers need access to grants and planning approvals to build reservoirs and irrigation equipment. But regulations must also be enforced to safeguard the environment and balance all competing water demands in times of deficit.
:: More than 72,000 new homes are needed in East Anglia in the next decade, but an anti-development and anti-business policy environment threatens to make this impossible. Bureaucracy and red tape must be stripped out to meet growing demand.
:: The rapid evolution of renewables, coupled with a generation of experienced workers retiring, has led to a major skills gap. There must be increased local integration with government skills policy and industry to make sure investment in training and education can be channelled to the right places.
:: The government must make it attractive and easy for international developers to invest in renewable energy in East Anglia. An urgent reform of planning laws is needed to remove barriers to this essential industry.
Supercharge East is brought to you in association with the Eastern Daily Press and Greater Anglia.