Calls for a 'torrent of investment' to create Northern Big Bang

Billions of pounds of private sector investment should be unlocked and used to create an economic Big Bang for the North, a new report says today.

By David Nowell
Monday, 15th February 2021, 11:46 am
Updated Monday, 15th February 2021, 12:26 pm

The report from the Centre for Policy Studies and Northern Research Group of MPs says more investment is needed to "level up" the economy and boost the North.

Rossendale MP Jake Berry, Chairman of the Northern Research Group, and Nick King, CPS Research Fellow and former Government advisor, have called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to mirror the radicalism of Thatcher’s "Big Bang" in the 80s.

They want him to reward the voters who lent him their vote and contributed to the Conservative majority in 2019.

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Rossendale MP Jake Berry

Mr Berry, a former Northern Powerhouse minister, 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."

In recent decades, the report argues, London and the South East have monopolised investment, talent and attention.

Preston is one of the areas that could benefit from the plan

At present the Northern economy, measured by Gross Value Added per capita, is three quarters the size of England's average.

"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 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.

Mr Berry and Mr 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.

Mr Berry and Mr 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.

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."

The Northern Research Group is a pressure group of dozens of Conservative MPs.

Other members include David Davis, Esther McVey, David Jones and David Mundell.