House of Commons Library

The Northern Powerhouse

Published Tuesday, November 1, 2016

This briefing paper provides a general overview of the UK Government’s plans for a “Northern Powerhouse”. It explains the origins of the Northern Powerhouse concept, the policy and funding commitments set out by Government, the implications for changes in governance and a look at the future in light of the policies of the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

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The Northern Powerhouse is an initiative developed by the 2010-15 Coalition Government, in partnership with local authorities in the North of England, to address a constellation of issues surrounding economic growth and productivity in that part of the country. It was championed in Government by the former Chancellor, George Osborne. Since leaving office, he has become chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, a think tank whose aim is to bring together business and local politicians to commission research, share ideas, and lobby Whitehall to press ahead with devolution.

It is generally accepted that the Northern Powerhouse extends across the three previous ‘standard regions’ of the North-East, North-West and Yorkshire & Humber. However, some, whilst using this definition for the North more generally, appear to restrict the definition of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ to the city-regions within that area.

While there has been some uncertainty as to the content of the Northern Powerhouse concept (i.e. whether it covers skills and business – particularly SME – growth more widely), it is generally agreed that transport, culture and science and innovation fall within its remit. What is not clear is which of the schemes and funding that fall under the Northern Powerhouse heading are previous, rebranded commitments and which are commitments that would not otherwise have been made were it not for the Northern Powerhouse concept.

That said, there is widespread support across the North for more powers to be devolved and for Government to assist those areas seeking to grow and develop, as part of a longer-term aim of rebalancing the economy, both between North and South and services and manufacturing. It may be that the Northern Powerhouse, and its neighbour to the south, the Midlands Engine, will form a key part of the Government’s renewed emphasis on an industrial strategy.

Further information on local governance and transport can be found on the topical pages of the Parliament website

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7676

Authors: Louise Butcher; Mark Sandford; Nehal Bradley-Depani

Topics: Aviation, Buses, Cycling, Local government, Railways, Shipping

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