Northern business leaders urge Government to commit to key investments

Roger Marsh

The leaders of the 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the North, known collectively as the Northern Powerhouse 11 (the NP11), met Government Ministers and Northern MPs in Parliament to outline proposals for levelling-up the UK economy ahead of next month’s Budget.

They presented their priorities for investment opportunities and projects that will allow the North to boost the UK and take a leading role as the country’s clean growth powerhouse.

This included proposals to drive innovation across flagship northern industries and to enhance trade, investment, and connectivity across the North’s towns, cities, ports and airports.

At the core of the NP11 Budget proposal to the Government is a £40m investment to help develop a ‘Net Zero North’ clean energy programme over three years. This is intended to build on the region’s energy expertise and to deliver transformational pan-northern projects, huge export opportunities and collaborative growth technologies.

It is estimated that Net Zero North could add more than £2bn a year to the energy economy and create more than 100,000 new green jobs, as part of a Northern-led green energy revolution to reduce UK carbon emissions.

The NP11 has also called for a £67m investment over three years to unlock new trade and investment opportunities. The proposal aims to close longstanding productivity and growth gaps between the North and the rest of the UK by raising exports to 30% of the Northern Powerhouse’s GDP by 2030.

It also aims to reduce the North’s dependence on domestic markets by seeking to match the UK average of 9.6% of firms exporting, through internationalisation of the North’s economy.

Further to these proposals, the NP11 has recommended that the Government’s new Northern Growth Body – first announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson at last Autumn’s landmark NP11 and Convention of the North event in Rotherham – should focus on the following in order to deliver the change needed:

  1. Maximum benefit, organised to support policy areas with the most opportunity
  2. Delivery, with real pounds and powers
  3. Northern leadership, collaborating, consolidating, and building outwards from partnerships and structures that are already established

Roger Marsh, chairman of the NP11 Board and Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Our Government has rightly recognised the North’s central role in levelling up the national economy following the UK’s departure from the EU.

“We’re now calling on the Government to show the extent of this commitment by ensuring its Budget on 11 March is a Budget for the North.

“In particular we need further investment into some of the North’s most promising developments and sectors, which include clean energy, transport infrastructure, and trade and investment opportunities.

“The evidence-based proposals we’ve put forward have potential to bring huge benefits to the 16 million people who live in our region and can help to turbo-charge Britain’s post-Brexit economy.”

Simon Clarke, Minister of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: “I look forward to working with the NP11 and other Northern leaders on our shared vision to level up and unleash the potential of communities across the North.

“Just last week we announced £70m investment to develop two of Europe’s first-ever large scale, low carbon hydrogen production plants – the first on the banks of the Mersey – and we are committed to helping local businesses grow the North’s exports which are already worth £59.6bn.”