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  • Post-Covid recovery plan will ‘stress test’ local economic strategy with an eye on £1.8bn Yorkshire devolution deal

    Supporting businesses through the recession and examining the implications of Yorkshire devolution will be key themes underpinning a new post-Covid economic development plan for the Bradford district.

    The project was outlined by University of Bradford Po-Vice Chancellor and newly appointed chair of the Bradford Economic Recovery Board Professor Zahir Irani.

    He said: “We are stress testing the current Bradford economic strategy. We are doing it by looking at the existing strategy from a variety of different perspectives. Effectively, we’re going to break it apart and reassemble it, having looked at it through a series of different lenses, as a result of Covid.

    “We are assembling leaders, businesses, people who have a stake in social and economic value, to make recommendations that will lead to a new implementation plan that will be very clear in responding to the region’s current and future needs, where we will capture what changes we are making, why we are making them, who is affected and what the benefits of those are.

    “We have to recognise there will be businesses that have closed as a result of the recession but ultimately there will be opportunities that will support business development. We want to create greater resilience and support business growth across our region.”

    Prof Irani, a former policy advisor in Whitehall under the Coalition government, said they planned to complete the work by Christmas and hoped it would influence Bradford Metropolitan District Council’s response to the next comprehensive spending review.

    He said aside from the recession and preparedness for Covid-19, the biggest issue on the horizon was the £1.8bn Yorkshire devolution and the opportunities it would create for the region in terms of investment, transport, housing, job creation, flood defences and more.

    “Bradford is doing something different, we are stress testing already existing plans in light of Covid but all this has to sit within the context of a wider West Yorkshire economic strategy and devolution coming to Yorkshire. We are being proactive and gaining the confidence of all our stakeholders.

    “What we’re saying to businesses is Bradford’s recovery will be relevant to you, because your circumstances are relevant to us, as a board.”

    This new board will bring together organisations representing the public, private and cultural sectors and work closely with those responsible for implementing this stress tested strategy.

    Prof Irani has enjoyed a long and successful career in academia, combining wide-ranging research interests, consulting work for industry and overseas governments and senior management roles including head of an award-winning business school.

    He was seconded to the Cabinet Office and served as a senior policy advisor in the heart of the UK Government during the coalition Government.

    He joined the University of Bradford in 2016 and was founding dean at the faculty of management, law and social sciences before being appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor with responsibility for academic, innovation and quality, in 2019.

    Prof Irani was born in the North West and spent most of his working life in London before returning north to Bradford. Last year, The Sunday Times newspaper named him one of the district’s main influencers.

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