'Ambitious and unified' call made for real change from new government in manifesto for the North

Leaders across the political divide have been warned to replace rhetoric with decisive action to deliver key priorities for the North of England which are set out in a bold manifesto launched ahead of the General Election.

By Geraldine Scott
Wednesday, 6th November 2019, 10:12 pm
Roger Marsh OBE, chairman of the NP11 board. Picture: James Hardisty
Roger Marsh OBE, chairman of the NP11 board. Picture: James Hardisty

Parties of all colours have been given the challenge of not only promising to make improvements for the North – but actually delivering on them for the 15.4m people in the region.

Roger Marsh OBE, chairman of the NP11 board, which brings together Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) from across the North, said: “Our region led the first Industrial Revolution and today is can become the crucible for the fourth – and the first sustainable – Industrial Revolution, but only if we take critical action now.”

The manifesto – the first of its kind – puts the people of the North and their “wit and grit” at the centre of all proposals and pushes for power to be put in their hands to make the decisions which will impact them.

Jim Hubbard, head of regional policy at the CBI, said: “The next government must set out plans to devolve powers regionally to ignite a new era of economic prosperity across the North and beyond. It’s time to harness devolution and work together to achieve shared prosperity.

“For Yorkshire and the Humber, this means setting out a clear framework for devolution, so that local authorities know what’s on the table when it comes to securing new powers and funding for the region. Business wants to see action, both for existing deals which remain unsigned, and for future deals that will unlock productivity gains across the region.”

Some of the more ambitious demands in the manifesto include a fund which would allow brownfield sites to be turned into areas suitable for housing, rather than being left fallow, and a boost to the North’s exports, where less is currently being exported than the national average.

Other policies detail local control over education, a formal commitment from the Treasury to rebalance the economy, a dedicated transport budget for the North, ownership of investment and trade, and measures to tackle the climate crisis.

The manifesto was born out of the Convention for the North NP11 event, which took place in Rotherham in September 2019, where the Prime Minister delivered a speech.

It comes as the Northern Powerhouse Partnership said the North would be the place where the election is won or lost, and appealed to party leaders to make keynote speeches in the region.

Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, added: “This manifesto is an ambitious and unified call to arms by political and business leaders from across the North.

“There is a huge amount of untapped potential in the North which needs harnessing to meet the great challenges of our time. Challenges such as climate change, helping people to escape poverty and creating the opportunities for all of our people to enjoy the prosperity that comes with economic growth.

"We are therefore calling on the next Government, whatever political persuasion it is, to back our vision and bring forward the changes needed to enable the North to finally deliver the game-changing improvements people in the North want and deserve to see.”

Nick Forbes, chairman of the Convention for the North and leader of Newcastle City Council, said: “Our North is one made up of many different and distinct places, but by working together like this we have shown we are a powerful region which is prepared to speak with one voice and do what is needed to create opportunity for the future.

“We are united in our shared belief that the North is central to the rebuilding of the UK. By coming together on a cross-geography and cross-party basis, we have proven that our ambition for our communities transcends traditional boundaries.

“We need the next government to be on our side. If they are prepared to commit to our game changing manifesto we are clearly ready to deliver.”