'We want results' say Northern Powerhouse leaders as Boris Johnson talks of 'levelling up' the UK

Henri MurisonHenri Murison
Henri Murison
Northern Powerhouse chiefs have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to provide "visible change" as part of his pledge to "level up" the economy.

Mr Johnson was in Coventry today making a major speech as he outlined more detail about his "levelling up" agenda to narrow the division between the North and South.

But in advance of his speech he was urged by more than 50 northern business leaders to quickly unveil the Government’s long-awaited plan to bring high speed rail to the North.

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There have been reports that Government plans to scale back part of the HS2 plan, and even a new promised Trans-Pennine rail link.

Boris JohnsonBoris Johnson
Boris Johnson

Henri Murison director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said this afternoon: "The Prime Minister is right to recognise the huge potential that can be unlocked from a properly rebalanced economy and it’s now time to translate that into visible change.

"There’s just a week before the summer recess and we’re still yet to see the Integrated Rail Plan, which cannot wait till the autumn.

"Today over 50 northern business leaders have written to the Prime Minister to warn him that this delay is undermining business confidence."

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Mr Murison said local leadership must be a core principle of levelling up and county deals are a promising sign the government intends to decentralise more powers further.

He added: "However, places such as Cumbria as well as North Yorkshire and York have worked hard to get rid of overly-bureaucratic two tier councils and instead have worked to deliver a streamlined structure of councillors and a directly elected Metro Mayor.

"On the North Bank of Humber and in Cheshire and Warrington we need Metro Mayors deals to ensure greater accountability."

Mr Johnson said the Government needed to “rewrite the rulebook” and take a “more flexible approach to devolution” in England.

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“The UK will never fit into some cookie cutter division into regions named after points of the compass,” he said.

“But where there are obvious communities of identity and affinity and real economic geographies, there is a chance to encourage local leadership.”

Mr Johnson added local leaders in towns around the country should be “given the tools to make things happen for their communities”.

“To do that we must take a more flexible approach to devolution in England,” he said.

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“We need to rewrite the rulebook with new deals for the counties and there is no reason why our great counties cannot benefit from the same powers we’ve devolved to city leaders.”

The Prime Minister said the UK’s economy had been “unbalanced” before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Speaking at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry, he said: “We need to say from the beginning that, before the pandemic began, the UK had and still has a more unbalanced economy than almost all our immediate competitors in Europe.

“And when I say unbalanced, I mean that for too many people, geography turns out to be destiny.

“Take life expectancy, even before Covid hit.

“It is an outrage that a man in Glasgow or Blackpool has an average of 10 years less on this planet than someone growing up in Hart in Hampshire or in Rutland."

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