June 24, 2019 @ 14:52 by Richard Dawson
The government has reaffirmed its commitment to empowering the North of England on the five-year anniversary of the Northern Powerhouse initiative last week.
Launched in June 2014, the strategy has seen growth prioritised in the North, with billions of pounds-worth of investment, the creation of thousands of jobs, and the devolution of additional powers and funding from Westminster.
Government figures have valued the North’s economy at over £339 billion — a £10 billion boost in real terms — with an additional 287,000 people now in employment since the plan’s inception.
The government has also used the milestone to announce its intention to continue to support the Northern Powerhouse for the next five years, building on the foundation that has been laid since 2014.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We launched the Northern Powerhouse to support a thriving Northern economy and ensure this country works for everyone. Five years on, our pledge is stronger than ever.
“But there is much more to do, which is why it must remain a top priority for government to do all it can to unlock the North’s vast potential, so that both at home and on the international stage the Northern Powerhouse continues to thrive.”
Some of the achievements of the Northern Powerhouse have included a £13 billion investment improving transport links in the region, a £70 million school and vocational strategy, and a doubling of the number of foreign investments in the region to more than 1,000 since 2010.
However, many experts in the North have said that while the Northern Powerhouse is a start, it’s still not enough, pointing out that the region has regressed in some areas when compared to the South.
Analysis from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has found that the North endured a £3.6 billion cut in public spending between 2009/10 and 2017/18, while the South East and South West combined enjoyed a £4.7 billion rise (in real terms). The IPPR found that London had suffered cuts, but at a much lower £256 million over the same time period.
The IPPR also highlighted the fact that public sector employment had fallen by 2.8% in the North, compared to lower levels in London (1.2%), the South West (1.6%), and the South East (1.7%). At the same time, while transport spending did increase, it should be noted that Londoners (£330 per person) benefited from a rise that was double that of Northerners (£149 per person), in real terms.
Additionally, the North East England Chamber of Commerce (NEECC) has urged the government to continue the development of HS2 and to clarify that it still intends to see the project through to completion.
The NEECC pointed to the 7000 new jobs created in Birmingham as a result of work on the new line, as well as a projected 100,000 roles created from two new stations set to open, as an example of how finishing HS2 could benefit the North.