Dr Annette Bramley, Director of the N8 Research Partnership, said: “Today’s budget shows the government is making progress in its attempts to forge a green recovery from the pandemic, but several key elements remain absent.
“The increase in R&D spending to £20bn by the end of this parliament and the rise in funding to Innovate UK’s budget to £1bn reflects the importance of supporting industry and universities to drive innovation and the knowledge economy for the future prosperity of the country. Yet, there are many areas where our universities expertise could be more fully exploited in order to transform the UK’s economic and social wellbeing.
“The £5.7bn allotted to the improvement of transport infrastructure in areas such as Greater Manchester, South and West Yorkshire, Tees Valley and the Liverpool City Region will be crucial in ensuring the job opportunities available in our great cities are more accessible to satellite towns and villages. Yet, As Damian Green commented at our recent fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference, if children are growing up unhealthy, it won’t matter if they’ve got great transport links.
“Therefore, the range of investments to give children the “best possible start in life” totalling £500m are welcome. As our forthcoming Child of the North report with the Northern Health Science Alliance will demonstrate, the manner in which the pandemic has negatively impacted on education, employment and mental health for children and young people in the North has exacerbated the systemic inequalities within our society. I would therefore implore the government to consider the findings of our report when deciding how this funding is allocated in order to ensure all children across the UK are able to experience the happy, healthy childhoods that will enable the best possible chance of a healthy, rewarding and prosperous adulthood.
“Ensuring funding from this budget is used in the right way is crucial. While millions being pledged to reduce crime against women and girls (VAWG) is of course welcome, we would urge the government to work with the N8 Research Policing Partnership – which combines academic rigour with the frontline policing expertise of every constabulary of the North – to develop long term initiatives that will support the reduction of VAWG in addition to the better CCTV and street lighting that have been proposed.
“Global leaders are currently arriving in the UK for COP26 and the scrutiny of our environmental policies has never been stronger. It is therefore disappointing we have not seen the commitments that would cement our international status as leaders on net zero – the slashing of taxes on domestic flights would appear to be sending mixed messages regarding what we want to achieve as a country.
“However, there are still steps the government can – and simply must – take.
“The N8 Research Partnership’s Net Zero North (NzN) initiative needs to be adopted at the highest level. Our eight universities have identified three parallel, pan-northern projects within NzN (Grow Smarter, Sustainable Hydrogen Economy and Skills and Productivity) that will accelerate economic growth by creating jobs, reducing carbon emissions, and ensuring we have workers with the skills needed to build a sustainable green economy.
“Support for Net Zero North is the government’s best bet to deliver the economic and environmental transformation that will protect our natural resources while also delivering the jobs, training opportunities and robust economy that the Chancellor has outlined today.”