William Eichler 05 December 2018

Northern Powerhouse needs ‘clear break’ with original vision, report says

Northern Powerhouse needs ‘clear break’ with original vision, report says image

The Government should commit to a ‘whole North’ approach to development rather than just focusing on the Manchester region, think tank says.

A report into the Northern Powerhouse has called on northern leaders to move the agenda to a new phase, which, it argues, should involve a ‘clear break’ with former chancellor George Osborne’s original vision.

Published by the progressive think tank IPPR, the report argues that for some proponents of the Northern Powerhouse agenda the aim was to create a ‘London-style megaregion’ around Manchester — an aim which led to the side-lining of other places.

The annual IPPR report, entitled State of the North 2018: Reprioritising the Northern Powerhouse, emphasises that the original vision of developing the North overlooked the people of the region, and their need for quality jobs, better health and well-being.

The Northern Powerhouse agenda has also been ‘severely undercut’ by the Government’s ‘self-defeating’ programme of austerity, it says.

IPPR is critical of the manner in which devolution deals were struck. The deals, it argues, have often been partial, the negotiation process has lacked transparency, and they have been driven by Whitehall.

‘This was a top-down agenda dominated by central Government: done to the North, not by and often not even with the North,’ the report says.

In order to move the agenda onto the next phase, the report calls on the Government and northern leaders to commit to a ‘whole North’ approach, which focuses on all of the towns, cities and rural areas in the North.

IPPR also argues the new phase of the Northern Powerhouse agenda must involve direct intervention across the whole economy rather than just a few select ‘frontier industries’. George Osborne’s vision of the Northern Powerhouse involved a strong focus on transport in the region alongside cuts to social infrastructure.

The new phase, according to IPPR, should involve a focus on transport infrastructure. However, it must also involve increased investment into skills and social infrastructure.

‘All the North’s people, resources and assets must be brought to bear if the economy is to develop,’ reads the report.

The report’s fourth major recommendation connects to the question of developing social infrastructure in the region. It argues for a focus on economic justice rather than just trusting that economic productivity would automatically translate into decent jobs and pay for residents in the North.

Finally, the report calls on northern leaders to lead the way. The Northern Powerhouse agenda, it argues, should be driven by pan-northern organisations such as NP11 and the Convention of the North.

Responding to the report, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council, said: ‘Echoing our own commitment to inclusive growth, this report is right to stress that all our cities, towns and rural areas are essential to, and must benefit from, the drive to strengthen the economy of the North of England.

‘With the right support from the Government, we can ensure all our communities can take advantage of the opportunities digital technology is bringing, delivering huge benefits for our region and the UK as a whole.

‘Investment in major transport infrastructure, including HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail with a station in Bradford City Centre, is critical to delivering the North of England’s full potential.’

Cllr Judith Blake, member of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Leeds City Council, said: ‘We have shown that when we have the right powers and funding we can make significant inroads into tackling long term obstacles to growth, in a way that benefits all our communities.

‘This report is a valuable reminder of the scale of the work still to be done, the size of the opportunity the North of England represents and how our important our prosperity is to the wellbeing of the wider country.’

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