Report calls for more localised powers to drive economy

A NORTH-EAST think tank is calling on the government to devolve powers to the region in a bid to get it out of the economic doldrums.

An independent report commissioned by IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) highlights the need for the region to take control of welfare, housing and transport, to reverse its financial decline.

The final report of the 18-month long Northern Economic Future Commission will show that the north of England, which includes the North-East, North West, Yorkshire and Humberside, contributed just 20 per cent of the UK’s economic prosperity.

And they are calling for the creation of a Northern hub for international airports with flights coming in from across the globe to help improve business productivity.

The commission, comprised of business leaders, voluntary sector and local government leaders, will launch its findings on Friday (November 30) at a conference in Leeds, addressed by chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.

Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: “Far from lagging behind the rest of the country, if the north of England was to emulate its northern European neighbours, then it might just lead the UK economy out of its current lopsided doldrums and towards a more progressive and sustainable economy.

“Then, and only then, will the national debate move on and the nation as a whole will accept that northern prosperity is national prosperity.”

The claims have been backed up by a report from the British Chamber of Commerce which says too many transport projects are caught up in the slow lane.

It maintains that of 13 key projects identified across the country, just three are going ahead, with two having some funding committed and eight delayed, cancelled or merely under consideration.

The BCC said one of the two projects given some funding allocation, but with no date for final delivery, is the so-called Northern Hub rail improvement scheme to deliver £4bn of benefits to the economy of northern England.

BCC director of policy Dr Adam Marshall said: “Transport infrastructure is critical to business growth but progress on the investment promised by successive governments continues to be too slow.

“Whenever key decisions to improve capacity on the country’s rail, road and air networks are delayed, our businesses and economy are missing out.”

However, transport minister Norman Baker said: “Our massive programme of investment - the biggest since the 19th century - in the current railway system includes substantial investment to increase capacity on the East Coast Main Line over the next two years as well as £240m for the industry to spend on the route between 2014 and 2019.”

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