Robyn Peat, managing partner at George F White, shares his views on the Autumn Statement and Spending Review, focusing on issues of devolution and the Northern Powerhouse.
Today’s Autumn Statement reinforced the Government’s commitment to ensuring its Northern Powerhouse agenda remains on track. Decentralisation was a key theme and George Osborne revealed more details around greater devolution powers, with local authorities gaining control of extra fiscal powers including authority over business rates, local services and creation of more job opportunities.
This will provide great impetus to address the North-South economic divide and enable the North to put in place the foundations required to equal the economic dominance of the capital and South East. Indeed, the Chancellor confirmed that the North has grown twice as fast as the South and that the Midlands is creating jobs three times as fast as London and the South East. What’s more, Osborne pledged that one million extra jobs will be created in the North over the next five years.
The Chancellor’s pledge to spend £150million on transport for the North demonstrates that there’s a genuine attempt from Whitehall to generate economic renewal in the North. It’s not just a lot of ‘pen-pushing’ activity to ‘be seen to be doing something’ about the long-term neglect of the North.
Although currently much of the focus is on key cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds, it is vital that the Government does not lose sight of the ‘Real North’ and serve due diligence to the pivotal role the North East and the cities of Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough play in building a Northern economic force.
There’s so much potential in the North East – from Nissan in Sunderland to the array of innovative tech start-ups across Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Of course, it still has some real challenges especially those arising from its dependence on heavy industry and the closure of steelworks and shipyards, but we have good reason to be optimistic.