WHATEVER Government is formed after today’s general election will face pressure to devolve more powers to the North East, new research reveals.
The research carried out by the IPPR North think tank, supported by Newcastle-based law firm Ward Hadaway, has found widespread backing for the “Northern Powerhouse” agenda, in contrast to attitudes to regional devolution exhibited by businesses elsewhere in the country.
We have heard some strong arguments in favour of bringing economic decisions closer to the needs of local businesses, to enable them to do more of what they are good at.Ed Cox, director, IPPR North
A full IPPR North report on the issue is due to hit the desks of ministers in the new Government within weeks, but initial results suggest that whilst some national business figures are cautious about devolution, business people in the North are embracing the idea.
The study highlights fears that the North East could be left behind if powers for a devolved North are centred solely around the “M62 corridor”, linking the two largest cities, Manchester and Leeds.
All three major political parties have highlighted plans to boost the Northern economy in the run-up to the election, but there are concerns that pledges being made before today’s poll might not come to fruition in the long-run.
Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, said: “There may be a degree of caution in general in the business world about English devolution, but it would appear that Northern businesses want to see the Northern Powerhouse go full-steam ahead.
“During the course of our research so far, we have heard some strong arguments in favour of bringing economic decisions closer to the needs of local businesses, to enable them to do more of what they are good at.
“We also heard some major concerns expressed about the economic dominance of London and the skewed public and private investment that seemed to cause.
“Far from being tentative about devolution and its potential effects, many of the businesses which we spoke to right across the North were enthusiastic about the idea and welcomed the prospect of regions being given a greater say in how they run their affairs.”
Jamie Martin, managing partner at Ward Hadaway, said: “Devolution and the Northern Powerhouse agenda has the potential to radically reshape regional economies right across the North and bring in some profound changes about the way in which issues such as transport, investment, skills and housing are dealt with.
This has clear and important implications for every business in the North, particularly for one such as ours which has offices across the North, in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester.”