The Northern Powerhouse, since its launch in 2014, has seen some progress but too many false dawns. As we recover from this deadly pandemic, the time is now for the North of England. Much has been made, and many words spoken, of ‘levelling up’. Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s plan is for government, for Metro Mayors, for civic and business leaders and for university Vice Chancellors. And it can, and must, be implemented now.
Levelling up in recovery needs all of us to work together to support and enable every community and place in the North to make a contribution, and benefit from the proceeds of our success together. Co-operation has to be the legacy of the challenges we have all been through.
The route to leave this crisis behind and to build back better is not to simply try and recover our economy as it was pre-crisis, because the North’s underlying productivity problems would hold us back. This is a critical moment to take levelling up from words to action, to make the long term decision to close the North-South divide by driving up productivity. We have to create new jobs for those who work for businesses that will not survive this crisis.
1. Establish a national Patient Capital Fund up to £25bn to invest in start up and growing businesses, with greater proportion allocated to Northern businesses. The focus would be on new investment or recapitalisation on priority areas like decarbonisation.
2. Devolve health spending and investment decisions to areas with Metro Mayoral deals, integrating health and social care with a fair national funding approach. As has been proved in Greater Manchester, this approach can work and will extend benefits of joining up patient records and data to address new services, new community models and funding opportunities.
3. Start building HS2 from the North, from Leeds onto Leicester; from Manchester and Liverpool towards Crewe; and a new line across the Pennines. This would mean splitting the eastern leg to ensure that the North begins to benefit from high speed rail as soon as the rest of the country. Give the North the powers and funding to set up an Olympic Delivery Authority body to start work on new lines alongside funding the upgrading of lines by Network Rail.
4. Draw on graduates from across the North’s universities as Catch Up Tutors, in time for schools going back in September, and reform pupil premium distribution to better target long-term disadvantage. Set up new networks of highly-focused Opportunity Areas to work in a joined up way on closing the gap with how children progress from better-off families .
5. A green energy revolution: rollout of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) built as a fleet, backing the UK Rolls Royce led consortium with significant private investment multiplying public funding, deploying a high temperature cooled demonstrator in West Cumbria and providing certainty to Carbon Capture Use and Storage with two clusters up and running in the Northern Powerhouse by 2024.
6. Rebalance R&D investment to unlock closing the North-South divide, with an initial commitment to a Net Zero North research programme by the N8. This would be alongside a wider step change in R&D, ensuring that critical infrastructure like HS2 and SMRs generate UK jobs in the supply chain.
7. Devolve responsibility for the skills investment we will need post crisis, including funding to deliver the government’s apprenticeship guarantee.
8. Extend existing local investment flexibilities for the areas with Metro Mayoral devolution deals, unlocking up to £5bn in local investment in the North, ensuring local and national priorities are aligned and recognising the government has finite resources available. We will also accelerate new devolution deals to enable sustained economic rebuilding from Cheshire and Warrington to the north bank of the Humber.
9. An investment of £260m from Government and the Arts Council to support the theatres, galleries and museums of the North out of this crisis and use it as a springboard for a cultural renaissance.
10. Roll out of full fibre across the Northern Powerhouse, addressing areas lacking connectivity, with subsidised provision for the unemployed and low income families of school age children to ensure they can access better opportunities.
Henri Murison, Director, The Northern Powerhouse Partnership