The North of England was once the powerhouse of the British economy, but today it has some of the least productive areas in Europe.
Ministers need to match the radical spirit of those in the North who voted Brexit in 2016 and Tory in 2019, and repay their faith, by making it home to a modern ‘Northern Big Bang’.
This means making the North irresistibly attractive to private investment – both global and domestic – through new investment incentives, planning reforms and other pro-growth measures.
These measures could unleash tens of billions of pounds worth of private sector investment to create high-quality jobs in high-productivity industries, for example in green technology, making the North the natural home for the Green Industrial Revolution.
Billions of pounds of private sector investment could be unlocked in the North of England and create an economic Big Bang for the region, argues a new report from the Centre for Policy Studies and Northern Research Group of MPs.
In recent decades, the report argues, London and the South East have monopolised investment, talent and attention. At present the Northern economy, measured by Gross Value Added per capita, is three quarters the size of England's average.
The Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, Chair of the Northern Research Group of MPs, and Nick King, CPS Research Fellow and former Government advisor, call on the Prime Minister to mirror the radicalism of Thatcher’s Big Bang in the 80s, and reward the voters who lent him their vote and contributed to the Conservative majority in 2019.
‘A Northern Big Bang’, published today, sets out a series of recommendations on how to stimulate private sector investment and create a globally recognised, economic powerhouse in the North of England. The aim would be to replicate the impact of the 1980s Big Bang, which unlocked billions of pounds of investment in London and the South East, but with a set of measures which reflect the North’s existing strengths and future potential.
The report calls for a new Initial Investment Incentive – a cash payment to attract new investments and global capital to the region. This could be focused explicitly on green growth and meeting Net Zero, for example by incentivising investment into new gigafactories which would help spur a Green Industrial Revolution.
Other recommendations include leveraging UK Infrastructure Bank investments to unlock private sector investment where possible, creating a new Northern Infrastructure Bond aimed at attracting global investors, and introducing full expensing for businesses nationwide, or at least allowing all capital expenditure by Northern businesses to be written-off for two years.
The paper also calls for automatic approval for planning applications which create more than 100 permanent new jobs in the region when they have not been determined within two months, and an optional, alternative, fast-track planning process for investors planning to plough £20 million into the local economy, or whose investment will unlock over 250 jobs.
To ensure local decision-making remains at the heart of this regeneration project, Berry and King are advocating for the creation of a new Growth Board for the North, to help steer investment, and a Northern Recovery Bond, to encourage local investment in local economic growth.
The report recognises that such measures could also be applied nationwide, or in other regions that have fallen behind, but argues that the North is especially well positioned to benefit from them.
Berry and King argue that the Government should aim to unleash a torrent of investment into the Northern economy, to deliver the productivity gains, economic growth and higher wages that are so desperately needed.
Jake Berry MP, Chairman of the Northern Research Group, said:
“At the last election millions of Northern voters broke with tradition by voting for the Conservative Party, in many cases for the first time. The Prime Minister needs to recognise that they did so not only to deliver Brexit, but to voice the systemic disadvantages felt in many communities that were tired of being neglected in favour of London and the South East.
“The measures we have put forward will help the Prime Minister and this Government to ‘level up’ the economy and help make the North build back better as one of the most investable places in modern times."
Nick King, Research Fellow at the CPS, said:
"This Government has taken positive steps to deliver more public investment in infrastructure, but what the North needs is the scale of investment – and dynamism – that only the private sector can bring.
"There is a huge amount of domestic and global capital ready to be invested. Our recommendations are designed to make the North of England one of the most investable places on the planet and to unleash this capital through a Northern Big Bang."