Press Office

Northern Powerhouse

Clarity on devolution can reinvigorate the Northern Powerhouse

Published on: 9 April 2020

A clear and comprehensive framework for devolution that engages local communities is needed to reinvigorate the Northern Powerhouse.

Meaningful devolution

In a report published this week researchers at Newcastle University say that devolution has so far largely focused on major city regions, and that as a result, large parts of the North have been untouched by devolution.  

They call for policymakers to set out plans for meaningful devolution to all parts of the North, which reflect local aspirations and needs rather than a ‘one size fits all’ model.

They also say there is an urgent need to extend the scope of the Northern Powerhouse beyond core growth sectors to include basic services and infrastructure – including those outside the main cities.

Danny MacKinnon, Professor of Regional Development and Governance, said: “Boris Johnson has expressed his strong support for the Northern Powerhouse, and Ministers have talked of a ‘whole North approach’ encompassing smaller cities and towns. While this is to be welcomed, the government have so far struggled to translate it into policy.

“There is now an urgent need for fresh thinking to develop a new regional policy which takes into account local needs and the relationships between places. The piecemeal approach of previous governments has lost much of its political impetus and has created disparities between devolved and non-devolved areas in terms of access to resources.  It has also led to an uneven political voice across the North.”

Integrated transport

Drawing upon detailed research, the team at Newcastle University‘s Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS) also say that a renewed commitment to HS2 and northern sections of HS2, is needed. These should be viewed as an integrated, long-term programme of investment rather than as competing projects, they say.

Additionally, as well as increased powers and funding for Mayors and Combined Authorities over local transport, particularly for the expansion of bus services and cycle routes, powers over regional rail services in the North should be devolved to Transport for the North (TfN), providing an important element of regional oversight and accountability.

Other recommendations made in the report include developing a greater understanding of relationship between urban and rural areas across the North. The benefits of city-centric investment and regeneration have not spread to surrounding ‘left behind’ areas, and a renewed NPh should adopt an integrated, regional strategy based on a clearer understanding of the relationships between cities, towns and rural areas, rather than taking a cities versus towns approach. This could also utilise and strengthen the potentially complementary roles these areas can play within the regional and national economy.

The report, Reinvigorating the Northern Powerhouse? Recommendations for policy makers, is available here


Latest News