Engineers Propose “Council of the North” to Make Northern Powerhouse Strategy Real

A new report from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) proposes devolution to a “Council of the North” as the way to make the Northern Powerhouse a reality.

As well as coordinating and setting priorities, the Council of the North should have revenue-raising and borrowing powers, says the leading professional body. ICE presented its new report Delivering a Northern Infrastructure Strategy to the metro mayors for Liverpool, Manchester and Tees Valley.

Speaking at the launch event at The Capital Building in Liverpool on 7 September 2017, Liverpool’s mayor Steve Rotheram said: “The Institution of Civil Engineers has got it absolutely right when they say in their report that we need to see the North taking control over its own destiny. And the need for greater political devolution to be matched with greater financial devolution – if real devolution is going to become a reality. There is a strong case for a structure that brings together the north to speak and act as one.”

ICE North West regional director Darrell Matthews said: “For the Northern Powerhouse to succeed it needs a clear strategy for planning and delivering high-performing infrastructure. This is the cornerstone for a successful and resilient economy. By approaching infrastructure in the North in a coordinated strategic manner and providing the foundation for productive economic activity we can not only allow the region to flourish but also help to rebalance the UK’s economy and benefit the entire nation.”

Delivering a Northern Infrastructure Strategy was put together by ICE’s expert Northern Powerhouse Steering Group which includes engineers, businesses and local government organisations from across the North, chaired by Richard Threlfall of KPMG.

Richard Threlfall said: “My vision for the Northern Powerhouse is a region that has the ambition, the confidence and the capability to wield both economic power and presence on the world stage. We need to take control of our own destiny, set up the institutions to coordinate a one-North approach and invest in best-in-class infrastructure and skills. The North was once the powerhouse of the world. It can be again. But only if we believe in it and work together to make it happen.”

In Delivering a Northern Infrastructure Strategy, ICE makes 12 recommendations:

  1. The creation a Council of the North with representation of LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships) alongside metro mayors and leaders of local authorities to oversee the delivery of the Northern Powerhouse vision
  1. A northern infrastructure strategy to ensure the North’s balanced growth and improved productivity
  1. A northern spatial plan to guide and coordinate integrated infrastructure development
  1. The provision of coordinated lifelong learning and development to ensure the North has the future skills required by employers and to deliver its infrastructure investment programme
  1. To kick-start the North’s economic resurgence, central government should immediately increase the level of infrastructure investment and empower Transport for the North to determine transport investment priorities
  1. So the North can, over time, fund growth from its own resources, central government should devolve sufficient revenue-raising and borrowing powers
  1. The North must adopt a more proactive and ambitious approach to encouraging private investment
  1. The North should fully develop its specialisations in renewables and new energy technologies to maintain its position as the country’s energy powerhouse
  1. Transport for the North must develop programmes that enhance network integration and connectivity, enable economic development and ensure that the region is ready for the arrival of HS2
  1. Transport for the North should champion the adoption of new technologies in both passenger and freight transport, including the digital railway, autonomous vehicles and mobility as a service
  1. The North must acquire and maintain best-in-class digital infrastructure with complete geographic coverage to unlock economic growth and enhance the delivery of infrastructure services across the region
  1. To address the North’s housing shortage local authorities should put in place standard approaches to assessing need and have access to flexible funding arrangements for new developments
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