Bosses at professional services giants Addleshaw Goddard, Grant Thornton and Atkins in Leeds say spending commitments in the North per head should exceed those of London over the next decade, freeing up Transport for the North to make the decisions that matter for the region in its bid to grow as an economic powerhouse after years of under-funding.
Currently, Government spending on transport is more than six times greater per head in London and the South-East than in the North - a gap of £1,600 per person. This is despite the Northern economic area being larger than London, with 15.1m residents, as opposed to 8.7million.
The claim is made in Unlocking Growth in the North report, produced with the help of more than 100 organisations, to discuss how to boost growth in the North and rebalance the UK economy.
Its findings are publicly backed by several leading businesses across the North including Drax Power, Siemens UK, Hitachi Rail Europe and Amey, who are calling for the full and swift devolution of powers matched with the funding commitments required to help transport commissioners make the decisions that matter for transport infrastructure in the North.
Paul Hirst, partner with Addleshaw Goddard, said: “The North’s performance has been severely hampered by a major shortfall in investment. It is clear that that underinvestment has damaged growth in the UK economy and it is time this damage is undone and that spending in the North is greater, for a period, to unleash the north’s economic potential.
“Like the many organisations involved in producing this report, the Northern Powerhouse recognises this region’s vast potential. For too long, a lack of powers and chronic under-funding in transport have held the North back. In post-Brexit Britain this needs to change.”
Philip Dyer, Northern Powerhouse Director at Atkins, said: “In a recent speech, the Chancellor said that now is a good time to invest in genuinely productivity-enhancing infrastructure. We agree, and the Autumn statement is the perfect opportunity to put the words into action.”
Daniel Mansfield, Principal Consultant, Grant Thornton, said: “We hope Government will listen to the voice of Northern businesses and match our ambition for our region.”
Meanwhile the Government is being urged to back UK suppliers in the development and delivery of the high-speed rail network HS2.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling unveiled the next phase for the landmark rail link on Tuesday, confirming that it would still connect Yorkshire to London, with stops in Leeds and Sheffield city centres.
The commitment was widely welcomed in the region and followed speculation that the Government may water down plans for the multi- billion infrastructure project following the political shock of the June 23 Brexit vote.
However Sir Andrew Cook, chairman of William Cook Holdings, has now called on the Government to back UK firms when it comes to tendering contracts for the route’s construction, which is due to get underway next year.
Sir Andrew said: “To obtain maximum benefit in the regions for this massive investment, UK manufacturing must play a full part, and we are here to do just that.”