North is losing patience at the lack of progress
It’s five years since the Northern Powerhouse was launched, and, while some progress has been achieved, critics argue the government has ramped up the rhetoric without delivering change.
I believe that good work was put in with the intention to rebalance the economy away from London and provide much-needed investment in transport, skills, housing and digital infrastructure in the North.
But after a government reshuffle the Powerhouse dropped down the agenda and much of the initial enthusiasm has been lost.
So I can understand why 33 northern newspapers including the Yorkshire Post have joined forces to call for action to ‘Power up the North’ and tackle the North-South divide.
As Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt vie to become Tory leader and Prime Minister, this is the time to remind the candidates that the North is losing patience at the government’s lack of progress.
A report by IPPR North, published this month, praised the creation of Metro Mayors and Transport for the North as positive moves but added that austerity measures have held back the North, while commuters continue to endure appalling train services that somehow seem to be getting worse.
As the IoD has always argued, the North has excellent foundations for growth. We are the solution not the problem. Innovation is at the heart of our DNA, which is why we should be demanding solutions that transcend what is currently on the table.
HS2 and HS3 are laudable projects but we must think bigger, taking the lead on current and emerging technology such as maglev and Hyperloop.
As an organisation for business leaders, we speak with one voice across the North. It is now three years since we published our blueprint for Northern Powerhouse investment, where our regional chairs in Yorkshire, the North East and North West joined forces to call for a ‘business-led’ initiative to drive the next stage of the Northern Powerhouse and the formation of industry clusters to deliver leadership and investment.
The IoD signed a memorandum of understanding with the government to become an official Northern Powerhouse partner. This year, we are bringing our Yorkshire and North East regions together to create a ‘super-region’ with a powerful lobbying voice.
The missing ingredient for the Powerhouse is devolution. Moving powers away from Westminster to the North will speed up decision making and ensure investment is directed at the areas and issues that require it most.
This comes with political challenges, both regional and national, as we have seen over the past few years, but it is incumbent on our Prime Minister candidates to ensure this deadlock is resolved so that powers can be released.
It can be done but if government ministers are not there to support it then it will just be a load of hot air and empty promises.
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Natalie Sykes, Regional Director, IoD Yorkshire & North East