Northern Powerhouse 'can lead recovery'

THE Northern Powerhouse can play a major role in the UK's economic recovery from the coronavirus, according to new proposals. Investing in green energy, providing targeted educational support for the North's most disadvantaged families and funding major infrastructure improvement in both transport and connectivity could allow the government to level-up the UK economy, says the Northern Powerhouse partnership. It has published five recommendations for how the government can rebalance the economy - creating thousands of jobs and significant economic growth by maximising the potential of the North.

The proposals - backed by major UK businesses - are supported by polling of more than 1,700 people across the region. Results show high levels of support for greater local control in the form of devolution, with eight in ten northerners indicating support for boosting training and education funding and around one in two backing investment in roads, rail and fibre broadband. Central to the economic recovery is improving the region's infrastructure.

The High Speed North project is expected to set out a way forward for both HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) to be delivered. But there are a number of rail and road upgrade schemes - such as upgrading the West Cumbrian rail line for freight and commuting, and making Darlington station HS2 and NPR-ready - which could be started immediately. Ensuring that fibre broadband connectivity is as good in 'left-behind' towns in the North as it is in major cities is also seen as vital to allowing those who can work from home to be as productive as possible during the crisis and beyond.

Northern Powerhouse partnership director Henri Murison said: "The Northern Powerhouse is an economic vision to increase the contribution the North makes to the UK economy. Never has that been more relevant than now as we attempt to emerge from this terrible pandemic. "Our proposals set out five practical, deliverable investments that the government could embrace to allow the UK economy to grow again, creating jobs in new, green industries and help to transform the productivity of the North."

Tristia Harrison, chief executive of TalkTalk, said: "As our lives increasingly move online, access to fast, reliable and affordable broadband has never been so important. "Building world-class digital infrastructure, alongside the immediate jobs this will create, will be central to the economic recovery, especially in the North. Better internet is part of the step change we need to level the playing field and create the right environment so that our towns and cities can thrive.

"Industry, regulators and government must now work together to get new networks rolled-out as quickly as possible - it can't come fast enough for homes and businesses across the North."

There was high support for more powers for mayors.

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