The next government has been warned that the national economy will falter and some of the developed world’s worst regional inequalities will persist without decisive action to tackle the North-South divide.
Key figures in the North’s political and economic spheres last night issued an impassioned plea for the new administration in Westminster to prioritise a host of issues in the next term of Parliament to tackle the gulf between the region and the South of England.
Organisations including the IPPR North think tank and the Northern Powerhouse Partnership have claimed there needs to be a renewed focus on education and skills, transport infrastructure and increased spending on research and development to help tackle the regional inequalities that have emerged across the country.
The key issue of devolution remains at the forefront of any efforts to bridge the North-South divide, as the new intake of MPs have been told that there needs to be an “unprecedented and irreversible shift of power” to towns and cities in the North and across England.
The interim director of IPPR North, Arianna Giovannini, said: “Our regional inequalities are among the worst in the developed world.
“Over-centralisation is the root cause of this – too much power is hoarded in Westminster, and this holds back the North as well as other regions across England.
“But this can change – from day one, and every day after, the new Government must prioritise devolution, and move on from a narrative of helping the North, to one that truly empowers our region, so that it can take control of its own future and unleash its potential.
“That’s why the new Government must lead a ‘Devolution Parliament’, bringing in an unprecedented and irreversible shift of power to all the regions, towns and cities in the North and across England.”
In articles written exclusively for The Yorkshire Post and published on Saturday, the leaders of all three main political parties pledged to boost the North’s economy and tackle some of the most pressing issues which are faced across the region.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed the Conservatives are already driving foreign investment through bodies such as the Northern Powerhouse and creating Freeports to establish innovative global trade hubs.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn reiterated his backing for the HS2 high-speed rail link as well as Northern Powerhouse Rail, which would dramatically improve train travel between major towns and cities in the North.
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson committed her party to a “devolution revolution” to empower local communities.
However, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership’s director, Henri Murison, stressed that swift action needs to taken to unlock the potential of the North’s economy, which is estimated to be worth £44bn, and improve opportunities for the 15m people who live in the region.
He added the next Government must address the key issues of education, transport and devolution in a “matter of weeks, not months” and make a “step-change in progress towards re-balancing the UK economy”.
Mr Murison: “The new government needs to urgently address these critical areas, in a matter of weeks not months, if they want to deliver a Northern Powerhouse for the 15 million people who live and work here and complete the establishment of a northern growth body led by and for the North to take Trade and Investment our from Whitehall control as well as wider areas.
“The case building both HS2, starting from the North, and Northern Powerhouse Rail in full, and overhaul the region’s wider local transport network through devolved funding and powers has never been stronger. The time for being equivocal on this issue has run out. MPs from all parties in the North have backed the Connecting Britain campaign of business and civic leaders.
"The new government must now unequivocally do the same and publish the full recommendations of the Oakervee Review this month which we know mirror those of the widely welcomed Northern Powerhouse Independent Review into HS2.
“This election has seen the North come in and out of focus, however, the Prime Minister must now deliver on his election campaign promises and do what no government has achieved since the first Industrial Revolution – make a step change in progress towards rebalancing the UK economy, capturing a trillion-pound economic gain for the country over the coming decades.”