Transport and skills top agenda

Paul Houghton
Paul Houghton
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Bosses believe greater local control over transport and skills would give the North the biggest possible boost.

Northern chief executives say upgrading the crumbling road network and cutting congestion would be the two strongest drivers of economic growth.

Some 69 per cent believe that rapid trans-Pennine links are a key priority with 64 per cent believing access to a bigger talent pool would be the major benefit.

Almost two thirds - 64 per cent - believe better access to education and training is vital to helping their business grow.

The survey comes just days before the Government announces a devolution deal for Sheffield City Region expected to include business support, skills, housing, assets and transport.

Accountants Grant Thornton spoke to 55 leaders of medium-sized businesses in the North.

Partner Paul Houghton, a board member of Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “With a growing focus on the creation of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, these results show that for leaders of medium-sized businesses in Yorkshire and the North West, the clear needs are to invest in transport links, skills and training.

“Importantly, our survey results make clear that transport and skills are not two separate issues.

“Yes, businesses in the region would like to see more local control over skills and apprenticeship training, but just as important are the transport links to provide access to a wider workforce.

“To put the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ on the world stage alongside London, we need people to be able to live and work anywhere across the region – currently that is just not feasible.

The Government last week announced £170m to improve road links between Manchester and Sheffield , improvements to tran-Pennine rail capacity and a feasibility study into a £6bn tunnel under the Peak District.

Paul Houghton added: “The survey also showed support for international flights from local airports. “Four or five extra hours on travel times is a clear inhibitor to foreign trade .”