Next Prime Minister ‘must back Northern Powerhouse’

Dozens of political and business leaders from across the North are today issuing a clear and unequivocal message that the next occupant of Number 10 Downing Street must treat matters facing the North of England with the utmost seriousness.

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The race to succeed Theresa May officially begins today, with 11 Conservative MPs having declared they will put their names forward to become the next Prime Minister.

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26 February 2019 ...... Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York speaking at The Great Northern Conference 2019 at New Dock, Royal Armouries in Leeds. Picture Tony Johnson.

Much of the focus from the London-centric media will focus on individual candidates stance on Brexit.

But today, more than 50 industry and local Government leaders from Yorkshire - as well as The Archbishop of York - insist that the agenda to rebalance the nation’s economy and end the North South divide must be placed front and centre for whoever becomes the UK’s next leader.

Among their number include Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis, several of Yorkshire’s council leaders and scores of business leaders large and small.

They are joined by dozens more across the North of England as part of a collective message from all of the region’s newspapers who want action on delivering for the needs of the North and its 15 million inhabitants.

Boris Johnson is among those in the running to replace Theresa May

‘Enough is enough’

Yorkshire and Humber CBI regional Director Becky Hart, said the Northern Powerhouse had suffered a “power failure” in recent years and called for wholesale change in the way that Whitehall deals with the issue.

Ms Hart said: “The next Prime Minister, whoever that may be, must take the issues that The North faces seriously; enough is enough.

“Presently, the Northern Powerhouse is facing a power failure. So unlocking the region’s potential will need the Government to go beyond slogans.

Beckie Hart

“Action on improving infrastructure, for example by pressing ahead with HS2, is long overdue. Meanwhile skills shortages still starve firms of vital talent, and our successful advanced manufacturers are struggling with burdensome business rates. All this must change.

“I want to pay tribute to the campaigning newspapers throughout the North on this issue. It would not be as high up the political agenda without their work. The CBI stands proudly alongside you. Our region deserves better.

“This manifesto from Northern papers shows real appetite for change and growth – what we need now we is a new partnership between business and the next Prime Minister that delivers.”

‘Lack of commitment’

Prime Minister Theresa May launching the ill-fated the Conservative Manifesto at Dean Clough Mills in Halifax. Picture Tony Johnson.

The Northern Powerhouse concept, first developed by then Chancellor George Osborne, enjoyed widespread support when first initiated.

However, many across the North feel the agenda has stalled since Mrs May entered Downing Street and Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said the UK needed a Government that was as dedicated to the agenda as it once was.

He said: “The North has to come together to speak as one and the message couldn’t be clearer. Commit to a clear package of policy measures, so the Northern Powerhouse can be even greater than it was in the past.”

Brexit distraction

Bob Ward, North Chairman for professional services giant EY, said the process had been “derailed by the political and economic disruption and uncertainty caused by Brexit”.

“Annual GVA growth statistics consistently show that little progress has been made on bridging the productivity gap between the economies of the North and the South.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne at AMRC in Sheffield where he signed the Northern Powerhouse gainshare agreement which will see the city region rewarded for generating economic growth with up to £30 million of extra money every year for the next 30 years and a Sheffield city region combined authority with its own elected mayor. 2 October 2015. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“Now, more than ever, the North needs to see a real commitment to investment from Government and a long-term strategic plan with serious intent to bridge the economic divide. Increasing the North’s skills pool, driving a better diversified and connected economy and increasing the health and wealth of the 15 million people who live and work here in the North are all critical elements that need attention if we are to drive the future prosperity of the UK as a whole.”

Roger Marsh OBE, chair of the NP11 Board and Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “The North is the opportunity for UK plc where closing the productivity gap can deliver higher living standards for our communities and unlock growth which benefits the whole country.

“By working together and speaking with one voice I hope we can secure the support we need to accelerate delivery of a Northern Powerhouse which meets our ambitions.”