The North-South divide is not closing despite encouraging economic performance in the Northern Powerhouse, new figures reveal.
Figures obtained by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership show that, while a number of Northern regions have performed well in the past year, many of the North’s key areas are lagging behind the national average when it comes to the productivity of their workforces.
City regions in the Leeds, York, Humber and Greater Manchester areas all showed growth in Gross Value Added (GVA) per head to be lower than the national average of 2.9 per cent,
Other areas such as Liverpool, Cheshire and Warrington were exceeding the national average the overall gap in GVA per head between the Northern Powerhouse and the rest of the country for 2017 was £7,895 – slightly higher than the £7,655 gap in 2016.
The figures have led to Northern leaders to call on Government to back the Northern Powerhouse with massive investment in major areas where the North falls behind such as transport, education, skills and health outcomes.
Business and civic leaders in the North will unite for a summit in February on how to boost the economy of the Northern Powerhouse and create opportunities for its 15m-strong population.
The Great Northern Conference 2019 will be held on February 26 at the Royal Armouries in Leeds to unite the Northern Powerhouse by bringing together all parts of the region to speak with one voice.
The event will hear from former Chancellor George Osborne and leading economist Lord O’Neill, who together came up with the Northern Powerhouse five years ago and in government worked with civic leaders and business to narrow the North-South divide.
They are expected to be joined by Cabinet Ministers and northern elected mayors as well as senior business figures including the CYBG banking group’s chief executive officer, David Duffy, and Siemens UK’s chief executive officer, Professor Juergen Maier.
University leaders including Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, are also expected to attend the event, which is being organised by The Yorkshire Post and sponsored by some of the North’s leading businesses including CYBG.
Critical to boosting economic growth is transport, and a decision on the Northern Powerhouse Rail scheme is due in the spring. If successful, it would create an east-west connection that would create huge opportunities across the North.
Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry said: “Colleagues from the Government and I will be speaking at the Great Northern Conference and helping lead debate to ensure we are answering the big question of how to drive Northern productivity.
“As the most recent figures show, many areas have been increasing productivity, but as we improve transport connectivity across Pennines and invest through the Industrial Strategy, this progress must be accelerated.
“This agenda in the New Year needs to be front and centre in the domestic political debate.
“This is not just about a greater and ambitious North, but building a greater country.”
Mr Duffy added: “We are delighted to be sponsoring the 2019 Great Northern Conference.
“Yorkshire Bank has a proud of history of supporting businesses across the North of England and we know just what a critical time this is for discussing our future economic strategy.
“Delivering on the promise of a Northern Powerhouse has never been more important and businesses across the region, particularly small and medium enterprises, desperately need to see plans for infrastructure, skills, business finance and political devolution come to pass.
“The conference will be a huge opportunity for business to focus minds on how to turn ambition into reality.”
The event will focus on tackling the gap in educational attainment between the North and the rest of the UK, ensuring that skilled workers can be attracted, trained and retained, increasing health outcomes and building on capabilities of advanced manufacturing, energy, digital and health.
Tickets are available to Barnsley & Rotherham Chamber members with 20% off using code (please request code from the Chamber 01709 386201) at www.greatnorthernpowerhouse.co.uk