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Time to unlock North's potential

Thursday 29 November 2012 6:00

Sweeping changes that would take investment and powers out of the City and into northern England are needed to tap into the North’s vast potential and speed up the national recovery, a report has claimed.

The Think tank ippr north, which says the north of England would have the eighth largest economy in the EU if it were a standalone country, estimates that halving the output gap between the North and the national average would increase total economic output by £41bn.

Its Northern Economic Futures Commission (NEFC) report also calls for a more balanced transport investment policy and the creation of a £1bn northern innovation council among a raft of measures that it believes would unlock the North’s huge economic potential and enable a faster national recovery.

NEFC chair Geoff Muirhead says: “Far from being a drag on the national economy, the North can be the place where our fiscal challenges can be consigned to the past and a new type of responsible, resilient capitalism can flourish.

“We believe that the north of England is capable of taking its place in the ranks of the most successful northern European economies, with competitive companies trading in global markets, a fully employed and well-skilled workforce, and strong civic leadership that supports growth and shared prosperity.”

Alongside a raft of recommendations focused on jobs and skills, innovation, SMEs, natural assets, transport, housing, spatial policy, finance and investment, and institutions, indicators and monitoring, the report presents a 12-point plan for growth:

Increasing private sector employment in the North by 500,000 in the next decade

Doubling the number of young people in advanced apprenticeships by 2015

Devolving a significant proportion of skills and welfare-to-work funding to local authorities, city-regions and LEPs

Forming a Northern Innovation Council, endowed with £1bn from the sale of the 4G spectrum

Forming a Northern Investment and Trade Board to secure higher levels of inward investment and boost export capacity

Decentralising transport powers to local authorities and passenger transport executives, and creating a new body – Transport for the North

Establishing Manchester Airport as a second international airport hub for the UK and reducing air passenger duty at northern airports to the lowest levels (band A) for all flights for an initial period of three years

Decentralising housing finance – housing benefit and capital funding for building homes – into subregional housing funds

Creating a northern investment capacity within the British Investment Bank

Dorming a single funding pot for economic growth in LEP areas and, over time, moving to a more simple and radical localisation of business rates

Developing more transparent governance arrangements based on the combined authority model and further consideration for 'metro mayors'

Establishing a Northern Leadership Convention, N11 Leaders’ Summit and Northern Future Leaders Academy, to provide an annual focus for leadership and planning.

An in-depth summary of the report is available here.