With less than a week until the new Chancellor of the Exchequer’s first Autumn Statement, a coalition of Manchester businesses has made an ambitious call for the Government to spend more on transport in the North per head than in London over the next decade.
Currently, Government spending on transport is more than six times greater per head in London and the South-East than in the North, a gap of £1,600 per person. This is despite the Northern economic area being larger than London, with 15.1m residents, compared to 8.7m.
The call to revolutionise transport funding comes from Manchester-based professional services companies Addleshaw Goddard, Grant Thornton and Atkins, who have produced an ‘Unlocking Growth in the North’ report. The report is the outcome of a series of events held over the last year, involving more than 100 organisations, to discuss how to boost growth in the North and rebalance the UK economy.
They say spending commitments in Manchester and the North per head should exceed those of London over the next decade. The unprecedented move would free Transport for the North to make the decisions that matter for the region in its bid to grow as an economic powerhouse after years of under-funding.
The report, which is publicly backed by several businesses across the North, including Manchester-based Siemens UK and Amey, calls for the full and swift devolution of powers, matched with funding commitments required to help transport commissioners make the decisions that matter for transport infrastructure in the North.
This includes improvements to Northern roads, rail and ticketing systems, as well as better freight connections and East-West links. The report also explores long-term pathways for private investment in transport infrastructure.
The report calls for the existing roadmap towards transport devolution to be strengthened and expedited.
Paul Hirst, partner, Addleshaw Goddard, said: “The North’s performance has been severely hampered by a major shortfall in investment. It is clear that that underinvestment has damaged growth in the UK economy and it is time this damage is undone and that spending in the North is greater, for a period, to unleash the north’s economic potential.”
“Like the many organisations involved in producing this report, the Northern Powerhouse recognises this region’s vast potential. For too long, a lack of powers and chronic under-funding in transport have held the North back. In post-Brexit Britain this needs to change. That’s why we’re calling on the Government to use this Autumn Statement to revolutionise Northern transport by swiftly devolving statutory powers and injecting the necessary funding to unlock growth in the North.”
The Autumn Statement is due to take place at midday on Wednesday 23 November.