Natalie Sykes: These are the policies Boris Johnson must implement to support Northern Powerhouse

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Photo: PA WirePrime Minister Boris Johnson Photo: PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson Photo: PA Wire
So we have a new Prime Minister, with Boris Johnson entering 10 Downing Street to find an in-tray brimming with urgent matters.

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No lengthy summer holidays for Johnson, he needs to be on the ball from the day one. There is no time to spare when it comes to critical issues including Iran and Brexit.

He also needs to offer something for the North of England, where we are beginning to wonder if the Northern Powerhouse is anything more than political rhetoric.

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Investment in transport and connectivity for the North must be a top priority.

We must thank Roger Marsh OBE, chair of the Leeds city region LEP, for boosting the profile of the Leeds city region (for example by winning the race to secure Channel 4’s new headquarters). Now, as chair of the NP11, the Government-funded board which includes the chairs of each of the 11 LEPs in the Northern Powerhouse area, he has an opportunity to lead the charge for the wider region.

The NP11 board will act as one voice representing each of their regions, working with and advising the Government on issues such as how to increase productivity, overcome regional disparities in economic growth and tackle the historic north-south divide.

Roger received the Lifetime Achievement Award at this month’s IoD Director of the Year Awards in York – but don’t let that fool you into thinking that he plans to slow down. Indeed, for him, the job appears to be only just beginning and he exudes positivity and optimism that a better deal can be achieved for the North as part of a much-needed rebalancing of the UK economy.

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Roger has strong networks into Whitehall and builds trusted and respected relationships. Since becoming chair, he has led the LEP through a period of significant transformation, securing the country’s largest Local Growth Deal settlement and bringing £1bn of investment to the region.

The LEP has a strategic economic plan to develop the skills of the city region’s workforce, create thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships, help businesses grow, see new homes built and make wholesale improvements in transport infrastructure to create ‘good growth’.

Writing in The Yorkshire Post this week, Roger outlined plans for an ambitious Local Industrial Strategy for the city region that will bring together experts from the private, public and third sectors to agree priorities that will help businesses grow, protect the environment and promote better quality jobs.

Just think what could be done with devolved spending powers.

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Proposals for a Leeds city region devolution deal were submitted to government in 2015 but turned down. Subsequent attempts to secure a One Yorkshire deal have also stalled.

We need a concerted effort on devolution or we risk getting left behind in the UK prosperity and productivity race. But I believe if anyone can break the devolution deadlock then it is Roger.

Discover how the IoD takes your views to Downing Street through our Policy Voice initiative. Our new Policy Voice ambassador, Rashmi Dube, will be hosting roundtable events at Betty’s, York, on September 30 and then at C4Di, Hull, on November 20. Email [email protected] for details.