A ‘COUNCIL of the North’ is required to champion the region’s interests at a time when government cuts are likely to extend the economic divide with the South, according to a report published today (MON).

England's three northern regions - the North-East, Yorkshire and the Humber and the North West - will be disproportionately affected by funding cuts, leading to more job losses than the private sector can replace, it warns.

The study by the Smith Institute, Price Waterhouse Coopers and Newcastle University's Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies sets out a number of recommendations in 'Re-balancing the economy: prospects for the North': * A Council of the North involving business, universities and the community and voluntary sector to argue the North’s case in Westminster and Brussels and develop a clear northern brand * Local planning authorities across the three regions to develop strategic plan for key housing and employment developments, infrastructure and skills with government to consider the creation of a northern infrastructure fund * A Northern perspective of the High Speed 2 rail project which may have less impact that improving links across and within the North as part of an integrated transport plan, including an east-west ‘Crossrail for the North Report author, Michael Ward, warns that in the current economic conditions the gap between and within regions is likely to widen with serious economic and social consequences.

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Analysis of the government’s spending review indicates the North will be “disproportionately hit by spending cuts and job losses.”

He adds: “Without a fairer allocation of resources, stronger delivery structures, and a lasting commitment to tackling interregional disparities, the prospects for the North look worryingly bleak.”

In abolishing Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) - such as One North East and Yorkshire Forward - the government has failed to build on their successes and the North will suffer disproportionately as a result.

It argues the new Regional Growth Fund is limited and the RDAs replacements, the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), will not offset the loss of funds and support from the RDAs.

The report suggests that many of the government policies, including the New Homes Bonus and impending business rate reforms, are likely to favour the South over the North.

It calls for: * Greater support for declining industrial areas, new grants for business investment schemes, new job creation programmes aimed at Incapacity Benefit claimants and more relocation of public sector jobs to the North - such as the head offices of the new Big Society Bank and Green Infrastructure Bank * Government to properly fund LEPs and ensure the LEP network covers the whole of the North * A reassessment of the Barnett formula, which leads to higher Government spending in Scotland than in the North-East Paul Hackett, Director, Smith Institute, said: "This report is a wake-up call to Government."