Nine years of cuts ‘weaken Northern Powerhouse’

21 Jun 19

Austerity has undermined the progress of the government’s Northern Powerhouse project, a think-tank has claimed.

Since its inception in 2014 “life has gotten worse” for people in the north, according to research from the Institute of Public Policy Research North.

Cuts to public spending and rising child poverty in the north is evidence that the project is struggling in its objective to boost economic growth and wellbeing in the region, the think-tank argued.

The research, out today, found that since the onset of austerity in 2009-10 the north has seen public spending slashed by £3.6bn while the south east and south west experienced a rise of £4.7bn in real terms.

There has also been an increase of 200,000 northern children living in poverty to a total of 800,000 since 2014.

IPPR North also found that transport spending rose by more than twice as much per person in London (£330 per person) as in the north (£149) in real terms over the past five years. 

Weekly pay increased disproportionately too, with the north experiencing an increase of just £12 (2.4%) compared to £19 (3.5%) in the rest of the country over the same period. 

Sarah Longlands, director of IPPR North, said: “The Northern Powerhouse agenda has helped to build momentum around the need to address the UK’s unacceptable regional inequalities. But it’s clear from our independent analysis that it has failed to tackle fundamental challenges like child poverty, insecure work and poor health.

“If the agenda is to survive, and if we are to build a region, and a nation of prosperity, then the next phase of the Northern Powerhouse must go beyond the rhetoric.”

Since 2014, public sector employment fell by 2.8% in the north, compared to 1.2% in London, 1.6% in south west and 1.7% in south east, IPPR North found.

But the research also noted that economic growth was “marginally” higher in the north than the national average – growing by 10.7% between 2014 and 2017, compared to 10.6% for the UK as a whole.

Marcus Johns, researcher at IPPR North, said: “The progress we’ve seen on devolution over the last five years is certainly welcome, but we now need to see a new phase of the Northern Powerhouse. One which is of the north, by the north, for the north.”

Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry claimed the programme remained a priority for the government.

He said: “We’re investing over £13bn in improving transport – more than any government in history – and, with almost half the region represented by five strong metro Mayors with new powers to stimulate job creation, improve skills, build homes and make it easier to travel, we’re keeping our promise for more decisions in the North to be made by the North.”

Then chancellor George Osborne announced his vision for a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester in 2014. 

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