Boris Johnson urged to back radical devolution plan to boost the North

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson
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Boris Johnson has been urged to embrace a radical plan for devolution in order to deliver on his commitment to support growth in the North of England.

Influential think tank IPPR North has called on the new Prime Minister to hand more powers to the region, after Mr Johnson declared his support for the Power Up the North campaign over the weekend.

The campaign by The Yorkshire Post and 32 other regional titles called on Westminster’s political leaders to set out detailed plans to tackle the North-South divide.

And today, IPPR North has laid out its own set of demands to the Prime Minister.

In a new report, the think tank calls on the Government to develop a Northern industrial strategy, to devolve a raft of economic powers and to commit to a Council of the North.

The researchers say that the North has seen strong jobs growth in the key sectors of high-tech manufacturing and knowledge intensive business services, but that any extra progress will require new powers to be handed over to the area’s political leaders.

Report author Luke Raikes, a Senior Research Fellow at IPPR North said: “This country has endured centralised economic policy for decades. Central government has failed the North, and it has failed people across the country – even in our booming but poverty-stricken capital.

“All our regional economies are broken in their own way, and both Londoners and Northerners have paid the price for this missed opportunity.

“But there is a better way. Now is the time to change. The new Prime Minister must urgently deliver on his promises, seize this opportunity to set right a historic wrong and devolve power to the leaders of the North so that they can take charge of the Northern economy”.

Speaking over the weekend, Mr Johnson said: “The Power Up the North campaign demonstrates the dynamism, the ambition and the resolve of newspapers across the North to improve the lives of their readers, and of local businesses and political leaders to drive real change...

“I’m whole-heartedly backing the campaign and setting out how my government will narrow the North-South divide, and unleash the power of our great regions.”

IPPR North argues in its report that central government has “failed the North” while in other countries devolved power has helped similar regions to thrive.

The think tank points to Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia, a comparable region that has more control of its economy and has used this to modernise and diversify, sustaining higher GDP per capita than the North since the 1980s.

Responding to the report, Roger Marsh, the Chair of the influential NP11 group of northern local enterprise partnerships and of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “As the new Prime Minister sets out his welcome intentions to invest in much-needed infrastructure such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, it’s vital we grasp this opportunity to make the North an overall contributor to UK plc.

“This means setting out a clear vision for northern success and a credible plan to realise it; greater powers for the North to take its own decisions about the issues that affect it, starting with meaningful devolution for all parts of the North; and the right level of sustained investment to finally close the harmful North-South divide that is holding too many people back.

“I also welcome IPPR North’s calls for greater collaboration across the North, working together in pursuit of our common goals.

Mr Marsh added: “This is exactly what we are trying to achieve through NP11, focusing on areas where the North can be a globally competitive force for the whole country.”