Think-tank warns of North-South economic divide

The north of England risks being left further behind as the drivers of economic growth are concentrated in the south, according to new analysis by IPPR North.

The Institute for Public Policy Research North said situation is made worse by new economic powers being devolved to London and Scotland.

The new analysis has been prepared to coincide with the launch of a new commission, which aims to find solutions for the north to forge its own future.

The aim of the Northern Economic Futures Commission is to articulate a ten-year strategy for economic growth across the three Northern regions of England. Its objectives will be:

  • To articulate a strong vision for the economy being sought to develop the north of England, understanding its role within a national and global context
  • To propose a coherent policy agenda and spatial framework within which national government and other players can take decisions about strategic investment
  • To provide a clear evidence base for strategic planning and local decision-making within and between local enterprise partnerships

The commission members include:

  • Geoff Muirhead, former group chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, as commission chairman
  • Ed Cox, director of IPPR North, as commission deputy chairman
  • Bill Adams, regional secretary, Yorkshire and Humber TUC
  • John Anderson, regional director for Yorkshire and Humber, BT Group
  • Rhiannon Bearne, social enterprise executive, The Business & Enterprise Group
  • Paul Callaghan, chairman of Leighton Group
  • Adeeba Malik, deputy chief executive, QED-UK and co-chairman, National Ethnic Minorities Business Taskforce
  • Philip McCann, lecturer at University of Groningen
  • David McKeith, chairman of Chamber of Commerce Greater Manchester
  • Rodger McMillan, therapy area head, respiratory and inflammation, Astrazeneca
  • John Mothersole, chief executive, Sheffield City Council
  • Peter Nears, strategic planning director at Peel Holdings
  • Ann Pittard, large business development lead, Leeds City Region
  • Philip Shapira, professor of innovation management and policy, University of Manchester
  • Bill Tompson, head of rural and regional development unit, OECD
  • Julia Unwin, chief executive at Joseph Rowntree Foundation

The new analysis by IPPR North showed that there was a "significant turn-around" in the economic fortunes of some of northern cities, including Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, York and Sheffield, despite a North-South divide.

Research by IPPR North showed that the north of England is falling behind in relation to key drivers for economic growth such as skills, business start-ups, and investment in transport, science and technology.

In 2010, the percentage of the working age population with no qualifications was 11.1% in England compared with:

  • 13% in the North East
  • 12.1% in the North West
  • 12.8% in Yorkshire and Humber

Since 2004, IPPR North said the UK as a whole saw a 16.6% decrease in the number of new business start-ups over the period but the northern regions saw a bigger decrease of 18.8% with the North East seeing a 17.5% decrease, compared to a 19.4% decrease in the North West, and a 19.5% decrease in Yorkshire and Humber.

The think-tank said investment in transport infrastructure is heavily skewed towards the London and the Greater South East. Based on recent Treasury figures, IPPR North said spending on transport in London has now risen to £802 a head compared with £248 a head for the North East, £333 for the North West, £272 for Yorkshire and Humberside.

Cox said: "Making sure that the UK economy is firing on all cylinders is vital for the whole country so it is in the interests of everyone to make sure the North of England prospers. In the past, the North has looked to London to solve its economic problems but this Commission is designed to allow the North to forge its own economic future."

  • For further information about the commission or anyone wishing to contribute their research, analysis and policy ideas concerning the future of the economy in the north of England, can visit the IPPR North website here

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