THE skills gap between the North and the rest of England has widened since 2011, according to a report by a leading think-tank.

IPPR North said the gap was a major threat to national productivity.

The organisation called for a new ‘Skills for the North’ body to be established.

It said UK employers were spending half the EU average on training their staff and Government industrial strategy should place a bigger focus on skills.

IPPR North also called on the Government to devolve more powers and budgets for skills to local business leaders involved in Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).

In turn, it said LEPs must play a greater role in supporting businesses to use their apprenticeship levy budgets and publish local ‘priority lists’ where there were specific skills needs.

Senior research fellow at IPPR North, Anna Round said local leaders in the North needed far more autonomy to co-ordinate and shape the skills system and the proper resources from the Government to do it.