DEVOLUTION could help to improve productivity, education and training in the North of England as the UK prepares for Brexit, according to a leading economist.
Dean Turner, the UK Economist at UBS Wealth Management, said that devolving powers to British regions would improve efficiency, because local authorities have a better understanding than Whitehall of what their community needs.
Mr Turner highlighted Greater Manchester as an area that has already taken advantage of the opportunity to gain devolved powers.
Speaking during a visit to UBS Wealth Management’s office in Leeds, Mr Turner said the UK had to make its way in the world outside of the European Union.
He said: “Part of that will be a refocus on industrial policy. It has been apparent for some time for Governments of all stripes that the UK does need to rebalance.
“We need a greater focus on the North of England, where there needs to be greater infrastructure investment..in order to boost and lift the productive potential of the UK.
“It’s no secret that the UK has been suffering a productivity crisis, or productivity holiday, as I would prefer to call it, since the global financial crisis.”
He said one of the easiest and quickest ways to restore productivity growth in the UK is to invest in parts of the economy that have suffered from under-investment .
Devolution was “crucial” to support efforts to boost education training, and infrastructure.
He added: “We are one of the most centrally run economies in the western world. So many decisions are made in Whitehall and we know that that’s inefficient. It makes more sense for local authorities to make decisions on investment in infrastructure, investment in skills and training. It’s the regions that understand what the regions need best, and where the gaps are, and where the opportunities are, more than Whitehall.
“There has to be a re-focus again on this project of devolution but it’s two ways,’’ he added.
“We have certain parts of the country that have taken advantage of this; if you think of the Greater Manchester area. Other parts of the country have yet to get on board with that.”
He said that the mayoral model for devolving power can only be a good thing “if it helps in this process of devolution and handing more power back to local authorities”.
Last week, a group of Yorkshire’s top business leaders urged politicians to break the deadlock over talks for a devolution settlement for the region.
In a letter published in The Yorkshire Post, the heads of some of the region’s top commercial organisations and companies stated that 2017 must be the year when Yorkshire’s elected leaders resolve their political differences and come together in order to make sure that the region does not miss out on increased financial resources and decision making. The message was delivered as the notion of a Yorkshire-wide mayor begins to gain momentum.
Unpicking a 40 year relationship with the European Union takes time, said Mr Turner.
Headded: “It will take longer than the six months we’ve just had to think about this.
He added: “If the Prime Minister wishes to prioritise control of immigration and regaining sovereignty then that is not compatible with remaining a member of the single market.”
In its 2017 Year Ahead guide, UBS said that the new US President Donald Trump has promised an expansionary fiscal policy. Mr Trump has also pledged to enact pro-business policies, such as cutting corporate taxes.