THE North has raised its banners ahead of the General Election with the publication of its very first manifesto setting out a unified vision – and demanding change – with housing a crucial part of the package.
In a show of that unity today, over thirty of the North’s regional and city daily newspapers – from ordinarily rival publishers – have coordinated their efforts to proclaim the North’s determination that our regions will be a force to reckon with in this coming election.
The manifesto sets out five policy ‘game changers’ that outline the North’s ambitions for clean growth, devolution, transport, education, investment and trade. It will be presented to the three main contenders in the election – the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats – to show them how the North can unleash its full potential.
Clearly, this is a document intended to say: Ignore us at your peril.
“This General Election must be a change election for the North of England,” said Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham. “The time has come for the North to break free of the shackles of a London-centric Parliament and take more control over its own destiny.
“People here feel a deep sense of frustration that our political system has not worked as well for us as it has for others. It has left us with a second-class transport service, a housing crisis and a deep North-South divide.
“But, despite that, Northern political and business leaders share a positive belief in the potential of our region and its incredible people. We are optimistic about our future. The fact that we have come together across geographical and political divides to make this unprecedented and united call for change is a clear demonstration of the strength of our feeling.”
The Manifesto for the North is a five-point plan that was born out of the Convention of the North with NP11 – a group of 11 Northern local enterprise partnership – that took place in Rotherham in September.
The largest gathering of its kind, the Convention brought together business leaders, politicians, civic chiefs, education providers, youth groups, charities and more, to debate the key policy priorities needed to deliver the North’s ambitions to forge a prosperous economy and society.
“Our North is one made up of many different and distinct places, but by working together like this we have shown we are a powerful region which is prepared to speak with a one voice and do what is needed to create opportunity for the future,” said Nick Forbes, the convention’s chair and leader of Newcastle City Council.
“We are united in our shared belief that the North is central to the rebuilding of the UK. By coming together on a cross-geography and cross-party basis we have proven that our ambition for our communities transcends traditional boundaries.
“We need the next government to be on our side. If they are prepared to commit to our game changing manifesto we are clearly ready to deliver.”
The ‘game changers’ pledged in the Manifesto for the North are:
- Local control of education and training, skills provision that is systematically connected to the North’s businesses and growth needs, creating opportunity for all our people
- A commitment to rebalancing the economy as a formal HM Treasury objective, delivering transformational investment to power up the North, a formal commitment to rebalancing in the Green Book, and Office for Budget Responsibility measurement of progress towards this objective
- A transport budget for the North, enabling full delivery of the Transport for the North plan and supporting the devolution of control and shared accountability for the region’s rail network
- Ownership of, and freedom to lead, investment and trade activities to drive export led growth, with a greater scale of investment to level up the North’s export and inward investment activities
- Backing the North to lead the green industrial revolution, harnessing and investing in its prime capability in renewable energy, decarbonising industry, retrofitting existing housing stock and building new homes to the highest standards
Housing is a crucial part of the package. As the Manifesto states: “Quality housing is key to unlocking the North’s economy and is a human right for its people.”
Among its proposals for what the North can achieve, if given the means, is an ambitious agenda to build high quality and “truly affordable” housing. Indeed, as it states, this is essential to attract and retain the skilled workforce needed to sustain and grow a modern economy. Innovation in construction and technologies to decarbonise homes are a key part of the package.
“Our region led the first Industrial Revolution and today it can become the crucible for the fourth – and first sustainable – industrial revolution, but only if we take critical action now,” said Roger Marsh OBE, chair of the NP11.
“This Manifesto for the North sets out the direction that we need to take, and marks the North coming together with one voice to tell the incoming Government what our ambition is for a thriving Northern Powerhouse.
“Our message to all political parties is clear; the North is ready to lead the transformation required for net zero 2050, enhanced productivity and a truly inclusive Great Britain. We stand united as a region. For the benefit of our future generations, we ask the next government, and politicians of all political persuasions to work with us and ensure this plan is every success that it deserves to be.”
Mayor Burnham added: “Over the coming weeks, politicians of all colours will be coming North to canvass support. My message to them is simple. Don’t promise us things we haven’t asked for. Instead, get behind this Manifesto. Commit to taking power out of Parliament and building a much healthier politics here in the North.
“Give us powers over education and skills and we will give our young people hope for their future. Give us control of our public transport and we will integrate it and make it work for the travelling public. Give us the ability to build more homes and we will solve the housing crisis. Give us the ability to invest in our industry and we will power up the North.”