Nine Chambers of Commerce representing over 16,000 businesses, who employ over 1.4m workers across the North of England, have produced a joint assessment of the considerable opportunities the Northern Powerhouse can provide the UK economy.
The assessment comes as part of the joint submission by the Chambers to the Treasury’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), which will be announced in November.
Commenting on the submission, ROSS SMITH, Director of Policy from North East Chamber of Commerce said:
“The North of England’s economy represents a quarter of the whole of the UK. However, for several decades the North’s economy has underperformed. In this submission we urge the Chancellor to take the opportunity now, to change the rhetoric and start a meaningful conversation.
“The UK economy is presently in a much weaker position that it could be, and the capacity clearly exists within our regions to deliver a significant increase to UK GDP. Unlocking this opportunity should be a national economic priority and not left in a ‘regional policy’ niche.
“We have produced the priorities we believe will enhance the Northern Powerhouse initiative and it is time to see these priorities met.
“As a group of Chambers of Commerce, we will work closely together to ensure that business across the North lie at the heart of the changes to come. We want the Northern Powerhouse to become a reality and we are committed to playing our part to make it happen. We are willing to work with Government to develop these in greater detail in the weeks ahead.”
Other key recommendations to the Treasury include:
- On transport infrastructure investment the paper calls for a changing of the criteria for how infrastructure spending is allocated, as it currently massively favour London.
- On energy generation an equalising of the charges to connect to the National Grid, would stop disincentivising energy generation in areas of the North. The paper acknowledges that despite there being some logic for lower connection charges in the South that “this approach is failing at present” given that “the National Grid has estimated that there may be as little as 1% spare generating capacity at peak times this winter, leaving UK industry vulnerable.”
- On skills funding: the submission calls for placing less of a “heavy emphasis on very young people (16-18) when in many parts of the North with an older demography” arguing that it is “essential to ensure slightly older workers can be re-trained if we are to meet our future skills needs.”
- On immigration: the paper argues that “restrictions on international students remaining in the UK to work are detrimental to areas of the North where there is less population pressure and a greater need for higher levels of enterprise”.
CHRIS FLETCHER, Policy and Marketing Director from Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce added:
“This is such a major issue that we must work with organisations across the North of England to ensure that business’ views are heard and made part of the future decision making process. By the Accredited Chambers coming together in this way it has sent a clear message to government that businesses have got issues with a range of current policy decisions and their effect on the North of England. It also though shows their intent on playing a part in implementing change and solutions.
“We intend working much closer in the future to make sure our members play their full part in this vital work.”
The Chambers involved are: Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, Doncaster Chamber of Commerce, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Hull & Humber Chamber of Commerce, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, North East Chamber of Commerce, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.