Companies urged to take 'ownership' of Northern Powerhouse idea

Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: "The Northern Powerhouse must focus on people and respond to their needs and wants.
Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: "The Northern Powerhouse must focus on people and respond to their needs and wants.
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Leadership is needed to make sure the north of England's voice is heard in the Brexit negotiations and that "an appropriate proportion of funding repatriated from Brussels is invested in the region", according to a new report on the Northern Powerhouse.

The wide-ranging report makes a number of recommendations it says are needed to drive investment and wealth creation in the region.

It says the government's industrial strategy "requires clearer definition in a northern context" and includes a call to maximise opportunities in science and technologies.

The report - "Prospects for the Northern Powerhouse - Towards An Industrial Strategy" - recommends the establishment of a Northern Powerhouse Digital Task Force to prioritise mobile and transport connectivity, including 5G, and calls for incentives for FTSE 500 companies to relocate their head offices in the north.

But it stressed that companies, places and individuals in the north need to take "ownership of the idea" of the Northern Powerhouse and not rely on Westminster political leadership.

The report was being launched on Friday at Sheffield University's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at a meeting of business leaders and northern politicians but has been commissioned by the organisers of the Northern Powerhouse Conference and Exhibition held in Manchester earlier this year.

The authors said it was based on the outcomes of this conference and on two surveys, one of business leaders from across the country and one of delegates who attended the Manchester event.

The report includes eight main recommendations, including that "leadership is needed to ensure the North is represented in Brexit talks, and that an appropriate proportion of funding repatriated from Brussels is invested in the region, especially in east-west connectivity".

Another says: "The UK Government's proposed Industrial Strategy requires clearer definition in a Northern context.

"It must provide consistent opportunities for engagement with business to be sustained in the long-term, especially to maximise opportunities in science and technologies."

Other issues addressed in the report include the importance of skills, energy, higher education, finance, the role of foreign direct investment and post-Brexit trading relationships.

Former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake, who is chair of the advisory board for the Northern Powerhouse Conference, said: "The private sector's role is absolutely central to the success of the Northern Powerhouse and one of the great strengths of the Northern Powerhouse conference is the fact that it does engage with businesses of all shapes and sizes across the north.

"We want a prosperous and inclusive north and that can't be done without the involvement of the business sector.

"So what I would want to do with the business sector is to find the right mechanisms for them to be part of the policy thinking."

Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: "The Northern Powerhouse must focus on people and respond to their needs and wants.

"These much-needed infrastructure projects must be supported by investment in skills, training and education to be truly transformational and deliver a real difference for everyone who lives across the region."

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