Northern business leaders and politicians have published their Manifesto for the North which sets out a bold new vision for the region ahead of the general election.
The first of its kind, the manifesto will be presented to the Conservatives, Labour Party and Liberal Democrats, as a unified blueprint for how the country’s next government can power up the North and unleash its true potential.
As the country prepares to head to the polls, five policy “game changers” outline the region’s ambitions for clean growth, devolution, transport, education, investment and trade.
Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver has repeatedly called for the region to pursue a devolution deal which would see it handed additional powers by Whitehall.
A combined authority has been operating in shadow form in the county for over three years - but Lancashire’s 15 councils have never been able to agree how to formalise the arrangement.
“I fully support the aims of the Convention for the North - I attended the inaugural convention last year and I was one of the delegates who met the government minister earlier this year,” County Coun Driver said.
“The really important point to come out of this is that Lancashire authorities need to get our act together in terms of a combined authority. If we do not, we will be left behind those regions such as Merseyside and Greater Manchester, who already have the structure necessary to be able to benefit from the demands in the Manifesto for the North.”
Steve Fogg, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, welcomed the manifesto.
He said: “Lancashire is pleased to have a significant role to play in the NPH and we will be a major contributor to the ambitions within the manifesto.
“This is an exciting time for the Northern Powerhouse project, which is gathering momentum. Lancashire is leading the way in some elements, such as technical education, and we are keen to learn from and share best practice with other enterprise partnerships.
“The ambitions within the document are aligned to the local priorities of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, which will be reflected in Lancashire’s emerging Local Industrial Strategy.
“The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership is already investing £1bn in Lancashire, in order to transform our economy, create substantial economic growth and fulfil Lancashire’s huge potential.
“The measures outlined in the manifesto would reinforce that commitment and bring huge benefits to local people.”
The North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said it was vital that whoever took the keys to Number 10 should support the region strongly.
Alan Welsh, policy manager at the organisation, said: “We support the Manifesto for the North and welcome the fact that both elected and business leaders are coming together with one voice across the region.
“We need to make the strongest possible arguments to all of the political parties if we hope to redress some of the inequalities between the North and South.
“Our leaders must press whoever forms the next government for sufficient funds to make these manifesto goals achievable and fully commit to giving us the infrastructure we need to achieve our potential.
“In particular, we urge the Government to commit to delivering HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail in full and think of this as an investment in our future, not a costly expense.
“International trade is also another key area where our businesses need support and the manifesto rightly identifies the need for government to work with the North to deliver the scale of investment required to level up the North’s exports and inward investment.”
The Manifesto for the North is a five-point plan produced by the Convention of the North and NP11 – a group of all 11 northern local enterprise partnerships.
It follows the North with NP11 event, which took place in Rotherham in September. Hundreds of people of all ages and from across the North attended the convention – the largest gathering of its kind.
Business leaders, education providers, politicians, youth groups and charities, came together to discuss and debate the key policy priorities that will enable a prosperous Northern economy.
Following a year that has seen the largest coordinated action on climate change to date, political and business leaders across the North of England have today backed the five-point manifesto, which seeks to enable the North to lead a green industrial revolution and address the over-centralisation of the UK economy.
The game changers pledged for the North are:
++ Local control of education and training, skills provision that is systematically connected to the North’s businesses and growth needs, creating opportunity for all our people;
++ a commitment to rebalancing the economy as a formal HM Treasury objective, delivering transformational investment to power up the North;
++ a transport budget for the North, enabling full delivery of the Transport for the North plan and supporting the devolution of control and shared accountability for the region’s rail network;
++ ownership of, and freedom to lead, investment and trade activities to drive export-led growth, with a greater scale of investment to level up the North’s export and inward investment activities.
++ backing the North to lead the green industrial revolution, harnessing and investing in its prime capability in renewable energy, decarbonising industry, retrofitting existing housing stock and building new homes to the highest standards.
Roger Marsh OBE, chairman of the NP11 said: “Our region led the first industrial revolution and today it can become the crucible for the fourth – and first sustainable – industrial revolution, but only if we take critical action now.
“This Manifesto for the North sets out the direction that we need to take, and marks the North coming together with one voice to tell the incoming Government what our ambition is for a thriving Northern Powerhouse.
“Our message to all political parties is clear; the North is ready to lead the transformation required for net zero 2050, enhanced productivity and a truly inclusive Great Britain.
“We stand united as a region. For the benefit of our future of generations, we ask the next government, and politicians of all political persuasions to work with us and ensure this plan is every success that it deserves to be.”
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “The time has come for the North to break free of the shackles of a London-centric Parliament and take more control over its own destiny.
“People here feel a deep sense of frustration that our political system has not worked as well for us as it has for others.
“It has left us with a second-class transport service, a housing crisis and a deep North-South divide.
“Over the coming weeks, politicians of all colours will be coming North to canvass support. My message to them is simple.
“Don’t promise us things we haven’t asked for. Instead, get behind this Manifesto.”
Nick Forbes, chair of the convention and leader of Newcastle City Council said: “Our North is one made up of many different and distinct places, but by working together like this we have shown we are a powerful region which is prepared to speak with a one voice and do what is needed to create opportunity for the future.
“We need the next government to be on our side. If they are prepared to commit to our game changing manifesto we are clearly read to deliver.”
Our call to the next government
The original sticking point for some of Lancashire’s district councils was the requirement for any combined authority to be run by an elected mayor. That stipulation was dropped for shire counties like Lancashire back in 2017 - but other hurdles, including whether district councils would have a veto on certain issues, are yet to be overcome.
The North has joined together to call on our next government to get behind the region and help power up the North.
This is what we need it to do:
++ Deliver clear, consistent and stable energy policy
++ Back a flexible, regional approach to energy innovation and regulation to allow the North to lead the low carbon energy revolution
++ Develop new funding and regulatory models
++ Set energy efficiency measures as a national infrastructure priority, capable of attracting patient finance, incentivising the retrofitting of homes
++ Unlock new nuclear and industrial carbon capture, use and storage
++ Incentivise local smart low carbon energy generation, transport and services
++ Establish the North as the UK’s strategic low carbon pathfinder
Education, skills and work
++ Give places the freedom to match education and skills provision to local opportunities and support teachers and learners
++ Invest in cultural education, supporting the broader development of young people during their studies
++ Maintain its commitment to delivering a high performing technical education system, delivering parity of funding and esteem between vocational and academic routes
++ Establish a new appraisal and investment framework to enable quality housing development
++ Make registration on the National Register of Landlords compulsory in England, to drive up standards and ensure tenants have safe, quality homes
++ Review national policies to ensure they support local areas to plan for wider, transformational economic growth
++ Incentivise forward looking local plans that support wider growth
++ Amalgamate and simplify funding streams to give local areas the ability to invest flexibly and strategically in regeneration
++ Support local areas with a Brownfield Delivery Fund to tackle the infrastructure and excess costs of development on previously developed land to make more brownfield sites viable for housing
++ Rebalance UKRI R&D funding in line with the opportunities for growth presented by its key sectors, working with Northern partners to align academia, research, SMEs, and industrial priorities
++ Develop a roadmap to demonstrate how a place-based approach to innovation will contribute to the national target to increase the UK’s spend on research and development to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027
++ Develop a new Northern Innovation Fund to enable the North to take action in implementing its roadmap to unlock the 2.4 per cent target
++ Fund a Northern Budget for transport alongside long-term local transport budgets
++ Provide a ‘new deal for rail’, with commitment to High Speed 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail
++ Devolve control of transport systems to our places to enable London-style transport management with revenue subsidy to support attempts to set up expanded, extensive and better funded bus services
++ Provide financial support to assist drivers and small businesses to switch to greener alternatives
Trade and investment
++ Embed the North in existing activity, inviting Northern localities to participate in more trade missions
++ Provide the North with additional ownership of, and freedom to lead, investment and trade.
++ Establish a performance management framework to attract investment and trade
++ Work with the North to identify and deliver the scale of investment required to level up the North’s exports and inward investment