Northern Powerhouse needs more levers and leadership, say businesses

29 Jun 15

Businesses in the North overwhelmingly back the Northern Powerhouse but are urging the government to be more radical on devolution of transport and infrastructure spending.

That is the conclusion of an analysis by think-tank IPPR North, which has conducted a number of surveys, interviews and roundtables with firms across the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber.

The research highlighted that businesses wanted to see a pan-Northern approach to infrastructure spending to counterbalance investment in London.

Better leadership for the North was also urged and for council leaders to put aside local rivalries. One business leader told the think-tank: “Where is our Boris Johnson or Nicola Sturgeon?”

Northern businesses said they feared being squeezed by London to the south and a more powerful Scotland to the north. Resolving the leadership issue would help counteract this effect.

IPPR North director Ed Cox said: “Northern businesses have overwhelmingly embraced the Northern Powerhouse agenda and welcome the fact central government is finally ‘talking up’ the North.

“But despite its remarkable popularity, the Northern Powerhouse must go beyond its current guise as a brand. Bosses told us they want to see a more radical devolution of powers and funding over key economic issues, such as transport, infrastructure and business rates.”

However, Northern ambitions suffered a setback last week when transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin paused electrification work on the Transpennine line. He said the government needed to be “more ambitious” for that route.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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