LONDON must devolve powers to the North to kickstart the economy across the country, an influential audience in the capital was told today (Tuesday, January 15).
Last November, the Northern Economic Future Commission (NEFC) published its long-awaited report on re-balancing the UK economy, urging the Government to allow the North to take more control over its affairs to reverse its financial decline.
Today, NEFC chiefs took their case direct to the capital, hosting a heavyweight forum in the hope of convincing Westminster policy makers that the North-South divide matters to London and the rest of the UK.
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Delegates at The Exchange, including Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Parminter and Lord Curry, the chair of NFU Mutual, discussed how to unleash Northern economic potential for the benefit of the UK economy as a whole.
Ed Cox, director of the IPPR (Institute for Public Policy Research) North think tank and the NEFC’s deputy chair, presented the Commission’s report and its key recommendations, which include:
• Targeting full employment, with 500,000 extra private sector jobs;
• Creating a Northern Innovation Council, with a £1bn budget;
• Setting up a Northern Investment and Trade Board;
• Making Manchester Airport the UK’s second international airport hub, reducing Air Passenger Duty at Northern airports to the lowest levels, initially for three years, and creating a single Transport for the North body to co-ordinate transport issues;
• Doubling the number of young people in apprenticeships to 60,000 by 2015;
• Introducing more elected mayors; and
• Holding an annual Northern leaders summit.
At the report’s launch, NEFC chair Geoff Muirhead said: “Now is the time to act decisively: to prevent our fiscal crisis from deepening, to set our local economies free to drive growth and to give the North its voice on a national and global stage.”
Previously, IPPR North called for the North to have its own Boris Johnson or Alex Salmond-style figure to prise more powers away from Westminster.
The Government says it is giving local councils more power over public spending while ensuring taxpayers get value for money by making town halls more transparent and accountable.