Northern-based businesses have urged chancellor George Osborne to get a move on and make his much heralded “Northern Powerhouse” a reality to boost the nation’s economic growth.
Nine Northern Chambers of Commerce, including Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield, and representing over 16,000 businesses, have produced a joint assessment of the opportunities the Northern Powerhouse can provide the UK economy.
It comes as part of the joint submission by the Chambers of Commerce to the Treasury’s “Comprehensive Spending Review” – which will be announced in November.
On transport infrastructure investment the paper called for a changing of the criteria for how infrastructure spending is allocated, as it “currently massively favours” London.
On energy generation it said an equalising of the charges to connect to the National Grid, would stop disincentivising energy generation in areas of the North of England. The paper acknowledged that despite there being some logic for lower connection charges in the South of England that “this approach is failing at present” given that “the National Grid has estimated that there may be as little as one per cent spare generating capacity at peak times this winter, leaving UK industry vulnerable.”
On skills funding, the submission called for placing less of a heavy emphasis on very young people, between 16 and 18, when with the North of England’s older demography it is “essential to ensure slightly older workers can be re-trained if we are to meet our future skills needs”.
On immigration the paper argued that “restrictions on international students remaining in the UK to work are detrimental to areas of the North where there is less population pressure and a greater need for higher levels of enterprise”.
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Ross Smith, director of policy from North East Chamber of Commerce, said: “The North of England’s economy represents a quarter of the whole of the UK. However, for several decades the North’s economy has underperformed.
“In this submission we urge the chancellor to take the opportunity now, to change the rhetoric and start a meaningful conversation. The UK economy is presently in a much weaker position than it could be, and the capacity clearly exists within our regions to deliver a significant increase to UK GDP.
“Unlocking this opportunity should be a national economic priority and not left in a ‘regional policy’ niche. We have produced the priorities we believe will enhance the Northern Powerhouse initiative and it is time to see these priorities met. We want the Northern Powerhouse to become a reality and we are committed to playing our part to make it happen. We are willing to work with government to develop these in greater detail in the weeks ahead.”
Chris Fletcher, policy and marketing director from Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, added: “This is such a major issue that we must work with organisations across the North of England to ensure that business’ views are heard and made part of the future decision making process.
“By the accredited Chambers coming together in this way it has sent a clear message to government that businesses have got issues with a range of current policy decisions and their effect on the North of England. It also though shows their intent on playing a part in implementing change and solutions. We intend working much closer in the future to make sure our members play their full part in this vital work.”
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