Chambers of Commerce representing more than 16,000 businesses and 1.4m workers across the North have set out what they want to see from the Northern Powerhouse.
Nine Chambers including Barnsley & Rotherham, Doncaster and Sheffield, have submitted key recommendations to the Treasury’s Comprehensive Spending Review, which will be announced in November.
Andrew Denniff, chief executive of Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber said: “In this submission we urge the Chancellor to take the opportunity now, to change the rhetoric and start a meaningful conversation.
“The UK economy is presently in a much weaker position that it could be and the capacity clearly exists within our regions to deliver a significant increase to UK GDP. Unlocking this opportunity should be a national economic priority and not left in a ‘regional policy’ niche.
“We have produced the priorities we believe will enhance the Northern Powerhouse initiative and it is time to see these priorities met.
“As a group of Chambers, we will work closely to ensure that business across the North lies at the heart of the changes to come. We want the Northern Powerhouse to become a reality and we are committed to playing our part to make it happen. We are willing to work with Government to develop these in greater detail in the weeks ahead.”
Key recommendations to the Treasury:
· On transport infrastructure investment: the paper calls for a changing of the criteria for how infrastructure spending is allocated, as it currently massively favours London and the South East.
· On energy generation: an equalising of the charges to connect to the National Grid, would give greater incentives for energy generation in areas of the North. The paper acknowledges that despite there being some logic for lower connection charges in the South that ‘this approach is failing at present given that ‘the National Grid has estimated that there may be as little as one per cent spare generating capacity at peak times this winter, leaving UK industry vulnerable’.
· On skills funding: the submission calls for placing less of a ‘heavy emphasis on very young people (16-18) when in many parts of the North with an older demography’ arguing that it is ‘essential to ensure slightly older workers can be re-trained if we are to meet our future skills needs.’
· On immigration: the paper argues that ‘restrictions on international students remaining in the UK to work are detrimental to areas of the North where there is less population pressure and a greater need for higher levels of enterprise’.
Andrew Denniff concluded: “This is such a major issue that we must work with organisations across the North of England to ensure that business’ views are heard and made part of the future decision making process. By the northern Chambers coming together in this way it has sent a clear message to government that businesses have got issues with a range of current policy decisions and their effect on the North of England. “However, it also shows our intent on playing a part in implementing change and solutions. We will work much closer in the future to make sure our members play their full part in this vital work.”
The Chambers involved are: Barnsley & Rotherham, Doncaster, Greater Manchester, Hull & Humber, Liverpool, Mid Yorkshire, North East, Sheffield and West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.