Ministers reaffirm commitment to Northern Powerhouse

28 Jul 16

Whitehall’s plan to create a Northern Powerhouse remains a “key government priority”, ministers have confirmed.

In their first comments on the government’s flagship devolution deals since prime minister Theresa May’s new government was formed, new Northern Powerhouse minster Andrew Percy and commercial secretary to the Treasury Jim O’Neill said they would look to build upon the progress made so far across the region.

A series of government devolution deals have been agreed with cities in the region of the Northern Powerhouse including Greater Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, and the North East and Tees Valley. In addition, ministers have backed regional transport plans that include new and upgraded rail routes.

Percy, who replaced James Wharton as Northern Powerhouse minister in the reshuffle, yesterday made his first official tour to the North since his appointment.

“Building the Northern Powerhouse is a long-term government priority and central to our plans to rebalance the economy,’ he said.

“As a proud Northerner, I am determined to ensure that people in every part of the North – from large cities to small rural communities – enjoy greater control over their lives and strong, more sustainable economic growth.”

However, Whitehall has faced criticism for the limited scope of the project, which some commentators claimed was overly focused on intercity transport and planning. The real improvements, they said, would be found by upgrading energy, innovation and manufacturing in the region and increasing the productivity of northern cities

Percy's comments came as government figures revealed that over 8,000 new jobs have been reported by enterprise zones in the Northern Powerhouse over the past four years.

Enterprise zones across the region – where firms get business rates relief, simplified planning rules and increased capital allowances – have attracted over £1m a day in private investment since 2012.

In the three months to December 2015, 1,220 jobs were created on northern enterprise zones – an 18% increase compared to the previous quarter, due in part to 30 new companies expanding into those areas.

Percy said that from Siemens in East Yorkshire to GE on Tyneside, the Northern Powerhouse is attracting some of the world’s leading businesses to locate here and offer skilled jobs.

“Today’s figures make clear the real appetite to invest and do business in the North, with over 8,000 jobs over the last four years, thanks in no small part to the high quality local support on offer to new and growing companies,” he said.

Barclays has now been named as a Northern Powerhouse partner, and will work to support businesses across the area.

Percy urged all companies across the Northern Powerhouse to consider what they can do to promote our area as a place where businesses can thrive and grow.

 

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