Brexit holding Northern Powerhouse back, says think-tank

Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool
Image caption The Northern Powerhouse aims to encourage growth outside London and South East England

Brexit "chaos" is preventing the north of England from realising its real potential, according to a think-tank.

The Institute of Public Policy Research North said the Northern Powerhouse has been "deprioritised" by government.

Its "State of the North 2018" report said for the Northern Powerhouse agenda to succeed, leaders in the North should wrest control from Whitehall.

The government said it was investing billions in the North, which has "a powerful voice" with its metro mayors.

According to the report by the centre-left think-tank:

  • Weekly pay has fallen by £21 in the north of England since 2008 in real terms
  • Public spending in the region has fallen by £6.3bn in real terms since 2009-10
  • Two million working age adults and one million children in the north of England live in poverty
  • Some of the lowest life expectancies are found in northern neighbourhoods

Report author Luke Raikes said: "The Government is so consumed by Westminster's Brexit chaos that it has deprioritised the Northern Powerhouse agenda at the very time it is needed most. This cannot continue.

"All our regional economies face severe challenges - including London's. Brexit threatens to make this much worse and the Northern Powerhouse agenda is the best chance we have of fixing this national economic crisis. In the national interest, the North needs to thrive.

"The best way to take this important agenda forward is for the North to take the lead. The next phase of the Northern Powerhouse must be of the North, by the North, for the North".

The report set out five priorities the institute said were necessary for the Northern Powerhouse to move from its original form as announced by former chancellor George Osborne.

Image copyright PA
Image caption George Osborne was at the heart of the creation of the Northern Powerhouse when he was Chancellor - he is now editor of the London Evening Standard

Among the priorities are calls for the Northern Powerhouse to focus on the "whole North" rather than creating a "London-style megaregion" around Manchester and other large cities.

The report called for investment not just in transport but also in skills and social infrastructure.

Dan Jarvis MP, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region, said: "As leaders in the North, we know that by working together we can be more than the sum of our parts.

"Power and resources must be devolved to the right level, in order to enable those who know their regions best to invest money where it is most needed and drive prosperity for all."

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, said: "The report could not be clearer - with the uncertainty of Brexit looming, giving the North more control over its destiny is not only the right thing for the North's economy, but the whole country's as well.

"The North has huge potential for growth in advanced manufacturing, energy, health innovation and digital industries, but we can only capitalise on these fully if the government give us the powers and the funding to do so."

Roger Marsh, of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: "If the Northern Powerhouse concept is to have a long term and meaningful future it is through the North taking ownership and being given the powers and resources to fulfil our potential.

"The North of England has ambitious plans to deliver for its own communities and the UK as a whole and with the right support we can play our full part in ensuring the country prospers post-Brexit."

'North - South divide'

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: "This Government promised us a Northern Powerhouse and Northern Leaders stand ready to work with them to close the North - South divide which pervades right across public spending, poverty rates and life expectancy.

"But, almost five years after the government promised us a Northern Powerhouse, we learn that public spending in the North has fallen while rising in the South. This has got to stop and it is time that the North came to the front of the queue for public investment."

The government, however, described the north as "thriving" with "a record number of people in work and over 200,000 more businesses today than in 2010".

It said through the election of mayors in Greater Manchester, the Sheffield and Liverpool City Regions, and in Tees Valley, it had created roles to "champion their communities".

A spokesman added: "We are also backing the whole of the Northern Powerhouse with £3.4 billion to boost local economic growth and a record £13 billion in transport improvements, meaning almost £250 per person - more than any other region - will be invested next year to help commuters and motorists across the North."

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