Northern Powerhouse plan unknown to two-thirds in North

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Media captionManchester is one of the northern cities at the heart of the Powerhouse

Two-thirds of people in the North of England have either never heard of, or know nothing about, the Northern Powerhouse, according to a BBC-commissioned survey.

The survey suggested 44% had never heard of the policy and 20% had heard of it but know nothing about it.

The Powerhouse attempts to redress the north/south divide and attract investment to the north.

The findings are based on a survey of 1,003 people in the North of England.

The Northern Powerhouse is the brainchild of Chancellor George Osborne, who is aiming to bridge the economic gap between the north and south by attracting investment and improving transport links between its towns and cities.

It aims to promote growth in towns and cities and divert money and power.

The ComRes BBC-commissioned survey found 82% of respondents agree local politicians should have control over services like transport and health - rather than MPs in London.

Northern Powerhouse: Key findings

  • 50% are confident the government will boost the North's economy, while 40% disagree.
  • 65% of 18-24-year-olds are confident it will boost the economy
  • 47% of over-55s agree with this statement
  • 28% think it is fair London receives more for the arts, science and transport

The survey's findings were welcomed by government minister Greg Clark.

"The fact that most people have heard of it [the Northern Powerhouse] is good news," he said.

"We now need to work together to show what a difference having decisions made locally can make.

"I was struck by the survey where it said 82% of people in the North think decisions should be made by people in the North rather than in London and Westminster.

"That's exactly what I think and that's what this project is all about."

He said putting more power in the hands of people who live in the north and know about the north "is a far better way" than having decisions taken in London.

Almost two thirds don't know about the Northern Powerhouse

64% of adults in the North have never heard of it or know nothing about it


Never heard of it

  • 20% Heard of but know nothing about it

  • 30% Heard of and know a little about it

  • 6% Heard of and know a lot about it

What is the Northern Powerhouse?

  • It is an attempt to turn the North's combined population of 15m into an economic force to rival that of London and the South East
  • Connecting cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull by electrifying the railways
  • Mr Osborne's vision is to rival the major economic regions of Europe
  • Some people have complained that the focus has been too much on Greater Manchester

As part of plans announced in November, Greater Manchester will be run by an elected mayor from 2017, to devolve fiscal power closer to where the money is spent.

The city was also given power over its health budget in February.

The shadow energy and climate change secretary, Lisa Nandy, who is also MP for the Greater Manchester constituency of Wigan, said: "We would like to see more powers devolved out of Westminster and Whitehall so local areas can have tax-raising powers as well as deciding how to spend a very small number of budgets that the Treasury has currently devolved."

She added: "It's really, really important that people are involved in that decision-making process. The deal that we've had from Osborne hasn't given us much scope to do that."

Some Yorkshire towns and cities claim they have been overlooked in favour of Manchester, and there is also rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester.

In Yorkshire, council leaders have been unable to fully agree on how many mayor-led devolved regions there should be, which neighbours they should join up with or what powers they should have.

The electrification of the railways, which is regarded as crucial to the success of the Northern Powerhouse, takes in major northern cities like Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and York, yet there have been delays to the electrification of the line between Manchester and Leeds.

Image caption City regions for Liverpool, Greater Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle are included in the "Northern Powerhouse" strategy

Analysis: Arif Ansari, Political Editor, North West Tonight

When George Osborne launched the Northern Powerhouse, there was no certainty it would stick. Economic plans come and go.

Our survey suggests 44% people have never heard of it.

On the flipside, the survey found 56% of people are at least aware of it - that's actually pretty remarkable.

How many other government economic strategies can you name?

But that is all it is; a strategy, a plan, a dream. The ambition is to reverse decades of economic decline and create a powerful alternative to London.

That is to be achieved mainly by massive transport improvements to link the Northern cities. But high speed trains and new tunnels do not get built quickly.

Having said that, a deeper port will open in Liverpool next year, science is flourishing at Alderley Park in Cheshire and Greater Manchester councils are already exercising new economic powers.

Calls for powers for North

Residents want local politicians to have control, not MPs in Westminster


want politicians in the North to control transport and health


do not believe it is fair that London should get more money than the North for arts, science and transport

  • 50% are confident the Northern Powerhouse will boost the economy in the North

  • 49% don't believe the Northern Powerhouse will help rebalance the North-South economic divide

Image caption Manchester will be run by an elected mayor from 2017

Richard Stead, BBC Radio Manchester

Are smaller towns in the North of England being left behind by the Northern Powerhouse locomotive?

Leigh, which is 15 miles from Manchester city centre, does not have a railway station, despite its size.

Many people told me they'd never heard of the concept and it is unfair the south gets more money for things like transport, the arts and science projects.

They complain there's no industry and no jobs in the area, particularly since the closure of pits across Lancashire's coalfield. The railway station was mothballed in the 1960s.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The coke ovens at Redcar Steelworks closed last month

Fergus Hewison, political reporter at BBC Newcastle

Ask people what the Northern Powerhouse is and you're likely to get a variety of answers, not all of them illuminating.

"A 1980s nightclub" and "an electricity company" are among the replies I've had.

In the North East, devolution would be achieved through an elected mayor for Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and Durham, plus a separate one for Teesside.

The chancellor agues all this will help to rebalance the north-south divide, and also help to counter the power of an increasingly assertive Scotland, itself the subject of a new devolution deal.

Sceptics question how effective the project will be. Some described it as the "Northern Poorhouse" and claim it is window dressing, citing the recent closure of SSI steelworks in Redcar, with the loss of thousands of jobs.

ComRes interviewed 1,003 adults in the North of England by telephone in October 2015. Data was weighted to be representative of all adults aged 18+ by age, gender, region and social grade.

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