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Government urged to adopt a ‘North First’ approach

Words: Laura Edgar
A1 (M)

The government should adopt a “pro-business North First” agenda for transport in order to make the most of the North’s economic assets and boost productivity, a think tank has said.

IPPR North has said new figures suggest that the North of England receives six-times less funding than London for infrastructure.

This has been highlighted in a letter to the new transport secretary Chris Grayling.

According to the think tank, the North East will see £300 per person, the North West £290, Yorkshire and Humber £250 per person and London £1,900 for key infrastructure between 2016/17 and 2020/21. The spend on Crossrail will be £4.6 billion during this period, while in the North, the spend will be £4.3 billion.

In the letter, IPPR North urge Grayling to develop a “North First” approach to infrastructure.

Ed Cox, director, IPPR North, said that the referendum result showed that “now more than ever”, a ‘North First’ approach to investment is needed. “The north of England’s £300 billion economy is worth more than those of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. Focusing on this is going to be critical in creating the prosperity our country is going to need over the coming years,” Cox said.

“The North must also “take control” of its own funding decisions. The evidence shows that this would help boost growth, ditching HM Treasury’s outdated and ineffective model, better suited to mitigating congestion than driving new economic growth."

Tom Kibasi, IPPR, director, said that the think tank want work to be brought forward on HS3, something that must “take priority above all other major transport projects, including Crossrail 2 and HS2”.

The letter suggests four key priorities that Grayling should focus on:

  • Use record-low interest rates to raise £50 billion “catch-up cash” to invest in road and rail in the north, to unlock the “vital” private and foreign investment that such schemes will need. This should form part of the government’s new industrial strategy.

  • Persuading HM Treasury to overhaul its flawed funding model, which IPPR North say is “outdated and not suited to driving economic growth”. New ways of assessing the benefits of transport schemes and devolving 10-year budgets will make for “much more effective long-term planning”.

  • Introducing a new Clean Air Act for major cities to tackle toxic air.

  • Ensuring the passage of the Bus Services Bill through parliament.

James Harris, RTPI, policy officer, said: “As we set out recent in evidence (pdf), this [lack of investment] should be a key issue for the National Infrastructure Commission to address. Decisions over infrastructure spending need to account for the role that infrastructure plays in unlocking new development and growth, rather than simply responding to existing patterns of demand which would tend to favour London and the South East.”

* IPPR North based its figures on HM Treasury’s Spring 2016 edition of the National Infrastructure Pipeline and ONS sources for population and commuters.

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