Think-tank calls for ‘Council of the North’

A leading think-tank has called on new UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to demonstrate his commitment to “Power up the North” by backing a plan to devolve power to the region.

IPPR North renewed its call for “radical devolution” to local areas, including the city regions of the North of England.

And the think-tank, IPPR North, says that elected North of England leaders will eventually need to form a “Council of the North” to “make Northern policy accountable to Northern people.”

IPPR North has published a blueprint that sets out “how the North can lead the Northern Powerhouse agenda” into a new phase by:

  • developing a Northern Industrial Strategy
  • taking control of specific economic powers
  • working towards a Council of the North

In a key report, IPPR North says the North of England has shown great potential — the region has seen strong jobs growth in the key sectors of high-tech manufacturing (+20,000) and knowledge intensive business services (+63,000).

“But the North must take control of its economy to tackle future challenges like the climate crisis, automation, and an ageing population – while Brexit threatens to hit the North twice as hard as London,” said IPPR North.

IPPR North said that central government has “failed the North” while in other countries devolved power has helped similar regions to thrive.

They point to Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia, a comparable region that has more control of its economy and has used this to modernise and diversify, sustaining higher GDP per capita than the North of England since the 1980s.

But in the UK, the think-tank said central government “has boosted productivity in London and the South East while holding regions like the North back.”

IPPR North argues that Northern leaders must work together on economic policy when this makes sense – specifically on transport, trade and investment, innovation and supply chains.

To do this, the think-tank says that elected Northern leaders will eventually need to form a Council of the North.

Report author Luke Raikes, a Senior Research Fellow at IPPR North said: “This country has endured centralised economic policy for decades.

“Central government has failed the North, and it has failed people across the country – even in our booming but poverty-stricken capital.

“All our regional economies are broken in their own way, and both Londoners and Northerners have paid the price for this missed opportunity.

“But there is a better way. Now is the time to change.

“The new Prime Minister must urgently deliver on his promises, seize this opportunity to set right a historic wrong and devolve power to the leaders of the North so that they can take charge of the Northern economy.”