The Northern Powerhouse must not be left behind in a post Brexit Britain, Chancellor George Osborne has warned as a leading think tank called for the project’s leaders to work closer together.
ResPublica, the independent think tank widely credited with setting the devolution agenda adopted by the Chancellor, calls for fundamental change in the way society is run and a “resurrection of the north”.
Today (Friday) in Manchester, ResPublica launches Finding True North: A Manifesto for transforming the northern powerhouses.
The event has been billed as the “next step forward” for the Powerhouse project.
24housing will be covering the conference live.
In the Manifesto – backed by Communties Secretasry Greg Clark as well as Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton – ResPublica says a Council of the North needs to be established, btinging together leaders from the cities and regions to counter London-centric policy making as well as reducing the layers of bureaucracy at local government level.
The chancellor said: “One clear message from the referendum was that there were parts of our country which felt left behind and one of the reasons that I said two years ago that we needed to build a Northern Powerhouse was to make sure the whole country shares in our economic prosperity.”
In the manifesto, ResPublica calls for wide ranging changes that would bring prosperity and reduce worklessness for a region that has for decades been blighted by health and wealth inequalities.
The chancellor said: “We have made enormous progress. We have secured agreement to elect five powerful new mayors across the North; we have made substantial transport investment commitments and we have also made major commitments in science, research and culture. That is all designed to create an environment where the private sector can invest more and help build up the North. That is something I am passionate about and committed to and we have to make this work now.
“If anything the referendum result is even more of an instruction to deliver the Northern Powerhouse and make it a reality”
ResPublica believes the Northern Powerhouse dream could fail unless there are wholesale changes to the way everything from education to energy, taxes to transport, are administered.
Director of ResPublicaPhillip Blond said: “Post Brexit it its vital we don’t lose the north once more, we must maintain the urgent reinvention of our country and we must demand from those who would be our leaders that they mirror their paeans to social justice with a new deal for the North equal in scale and ambition to what Roosevelt offered America in the 1930’s.”
“Disparity cannot continue. We need Northern leaders to collaborate beyond city and region, to come together as a Council of the North and demand systemic and transformational change from the Westminster government. The north needs massive at scale investment across multiple sectors at the same time, it needs to recreate its entire economic eco-system and make ‘Whole North’ choices and ‘Whole North’ investments.”
The manifesto highlights the stark fact that across the UK employment rates are at a historic high, with almost 2.4 million jobs created between 2006 and 2015. Yet across the north of England just 360,000 jobs have been created during the same period.
Meanwhile, a baby girl born in Manchester can expect to live for 15 fewer years in good health than a baby girl born in prosperous Richmond, near London.
In the culture sector, Londoners currently benefit from £65.18 per head investment in cultural infrastructure, compared with £4.91 per head to the population based outside the capital.
Greg Clark said: “This is an important and thought-provoking Manifesto that deserves to be carefully considered. The Government will work closely with partners across the North to devolve more power to people and places in order to realise our ambitious plans to build a Northern Powerhouse.”
James Wharton said: “I welcome the active debate around the future direction and evolution of the Northern Powerhouse. Congratulations to ResPublica for this contribution, it is an important project and has the potential to deliver real long term benefits to our economy.”
Excerpts from the manifesto:
- Separate benefits from job seeking: At the moment JobCentre Plus is the place where work related benefits and job searches are conducted. But ResPublica says JobCentre Plus is not the most effective place to get on the career ladder. It is calling for another trusted agency such as Citizen’s Advice to work with job seekers to ensure they get the best advice and move on to suitable careers.
- Devolve benefits: Scotland’s devolved government has control over some benefits, social funds and discretionary payments such as housing. ResPublica says northern cities should seek similar powers over their benefits allowing them to create a system that is more streamlined to meet the specific needs of the local population.
- Reward for voluntary work: Volunteering should be rewarded beyond remuneration of expenses. A ‘Tax Free Allowance’ – with an adjustment to the existing tax base, depending on hours and contributions – would provide a flexible and package to allow individuals to tailor work and voluntary hours to meet their needs and provide a social benefit to society.
- Whole Family Help for Health: Local authorities should work with the school nursing service and General Practice to identify children in the early years of primary school and work with their families to tackle the whole family’s weight and overall health profile. The number of obese children doubles between the start and end of primary school.
- Community Health Kickstarter Fund: Government readily invests in Infrastructure Development Funds therefore combined authorities should have the right to submit a business case seeking Government commitment to a kickstarter investment fund in community health improvements, ranging from education to housing, transport to community groups. This would provide the seed capital to introduce a host of evidence based interventions outside the traditional health field.
- Tax raising powers for health: Subject to a local referendum, Combined Authorities who have taken responsibility for the devolved health system should be able to levy a health and care tax to provide additional funding for health and care in that city region.
On Transport Infrastructure:
- Connect the Northern cities from Liverpool to Hull via a ‘TransNorth’ rail line: As recommended by both Transport for the North and the National Infrastructure Commission, we call for the construction of a high speed east-west rail line connecting Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull and Newcastle, in order to take advantage of the potential for growth across the Northern economy.
- Devolve TfL-style powers to elected Mayors. The Buses Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech, will allow those city regions with directly elected mayors to franchise bus services within their region. While this is a step forward, all powers available to Transport for London should be available to directly elected mayors and their administrations to create smart, integrated local transport networks.
- Rebrand Transport for the North as Infrastructure for the North: Expanding the remit of Transport for the North to include wider infrastructure aims would allow for a genuinely integrated Northern infrastructure strategy, covering not simply transport investment but also broader needs including housing and energy.
- Allow regions to control housing developments: Northern cities and localities must have the right to control regeneration. They could do this through Pan-Regional Regeneration Partnerships, led by cities and their satellites. These would push regeneration across the North by meeting affordable housing targets at the regional rather than local level; ensuring the benefits of devolution go beyond urban hubs.
- Use empty houses: Power should be handed to Northern cities and localities to allow redevelopment of empty housing stock to count towards affordable housing and Starter Home targets.
- Cities to retain Stamp Duty Land Tax receipts. This would meet housing needs in a number of ways:
a.) Funding building to close the North’s housing gap. With housebuilding in the North slowing over the last decade, the five biggest city regions – Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield – will face a shortage of 86,220 homes by 2030. Local retention of Stamp Duty receipts would allow 53,175 homes in the top five city regions to be financed by 2030. We propose city regions get the power to retain stamp duty receipts to support building of new homes to close this gap.
b.) Creating Private Rented Sector Funds. The North’s great cities – Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle – need a high quality, thriving private rented sector to attract and retain the highly skilled workforce they need to flourish. Retention of the Government’s new stamp duty levy for Buy to Let would provide seed funding to attract institutional investment to boost quality and supply in this vital part of the housing market.
- Northern teaching premium:
- Offering help with housing costs to make it more attractive to move to teach in the north of England
- Help paying off student debts
- Teach 40+ scheme to attract and retain experienced teachers
- Fast track professional development to accelerate career progress
- Bursaries for PhD students to teach in secondary schools
- North Tech: There are 23 Universities in the north. None of them come in the top 50 list of World Class institutions. Just 3 are in the top 100. If northern universities shared knowledge and collaborated on research they would be able to increase their world rankings, particularly where applied sciences and tech. World renowned institutions like MIT or Zurich should be encouraged to set up campuses in the north of England in new Innovation Districts. This would attract funding and retain talent in the region.
- Mayor’s Fund: Reducing inequality and increasing social mobility should be at the heart of the role of the Metro Mayors. To this end all Metro Mayors should work to raise donations from corporate sponsors, foundations and philanthropists in the North. This fund should invest in Wellbeing, Skills and Employment and Enterprise programmes to empower children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in school and acquire the skills they need to secure employment, and progress their careers. The London Mayor runs a similar programme.
- Create a Northern Wealth Fund from the benefits of shale gas exploration. The Bowland Shale, mostly located in Lancashire, is purported to contain 200 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. If just 10 per cent of this was extracted, this could be worth £136bn in total. It is essential that the tax receipts from such exploration are kept in the North. We recommend that a Sovereign Wealth Fund be created for the Northern Powerhouse to retain these receipts and invest in the North. A new Investment Board should be established to govern this Fund, headed-up by the northern city-mayors.
- Localise Climate Change Levy receipts to combined authorities: The receipts from the tax, which is levied on businesses, should be ringfenced for local schemes to make business premises more energy efficient.
- Devolve the funding and delivery of energy efficiency and fuel poverty measures: Energy efficiency program delivery (the Energy Company Obligation) should be opened up to local competition, as local organisations will have a better knowledge of which businesses should be targeted. Cities, local authorities, housing providers, communities and businesses should all have the opportunity to bid.
- Establish a Northern Digital Service: A pan-Northern Digital Service should be created, to provide a shared platform for automating council services that all cities and councils could use. This would reduce the cost of every council designing separate systems, but maintain local discretion over services.
- Create a deputy mayor for innovation on every city-region cabinet: The strong mandate of a deputy member could work across the network of innovators in private, public, and third sectors.
- North-wide financial incentives for business: Tax incentives should be offered to specific sectors on a North-wide basis, to reduce the relative cost of locating there. This would attract high-volume, large-workforce businesses.
- Devolve cultural assets and funds to city-regions. Greater decision making on public policy and the funding of cultural assets and infrastructure should be made locally. This should aim to rebalance the distribution of investment in cultural infrastructure. The north should also appoint a Cultural Ambassador to work with British embassies abroad.
- An arts education should be an entitlement for all children: The school curriculum should focus on science, technology, engineering and maths but must also include the arts.
All northern cities should develop ‘Cultural Quarters’: These should provide workspace, accommodation and tax breaks for artists to help create a ‘Berlin of the North’ in every city centre.