North West small firms urge action on
Northern Powerhouse ahead of Budget
SMALL businesses from across the North
West are calling for effective integration of public bodies, greater
infrastructure investment and the creation of a Council of the North in a new
report urging accelerated delivery of the Northern Powerhouse.
Authored by Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) representatives in Northern
England:- 'An Entrepreneurial North' highlights the benefits of moving to
a pan-regional small business support model as part of the Northern Powerhouse
The 5 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across the North West are receiving
over £2 billion in the 6 years to 2021, with 45p in every £1 coming from
European Union sources. The report suggests that Government plans to bring
together different funding streams into a single UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF)
marks an opportunity to more effectively integrate small business support
services across the North.
Also among asks are improvements to infrastructure in the North West and
delivery of the Major Road Network. Projects flagged as of particular importance
following a new survey of small businesses across the North West, are
electrification of the Manchester - Bolton - Preston railline, widespread expansion
of park and ride facilities and re-opening of the Colne to Skipton Railway.
Phil McCabe, Development Manager, FSB Merseyside, West Cheshire and Wigan,
said:- "3 years on from the 1st mention of the Northern Powerhouse and
it's still hard to find concrete manifestations of it. With a week to go until
the Budget, we'd like to see the Chancellor take some meaningful steps towards
getting the show on the road.
We need cast iron guarantees about EU funding post-Brexit. Firms across the
North West are benefitting from EU support to the tune of millions every year. 1 thing's for sure, we won't have a
Northern Powerhouse unless that money's
Our LEPs and Growth Hubs are doing some fantastic work in supporting small firms
across the region. Liverpool City Region Enterprise Hub, for example, is making
significant inroads towards addressing the shortfall in start ups in this
region. However, we do have some challenges around awareness of what these
bodies offer and duplication of services. Moving to a pan regional model could
help tackle these issues. The success of the Northern Powerhouse starts with
having the right infrastructure in place. We need greater focus on the local
road routes and rail lines that matter to small businesses. Headline grabbing
projects have their place, but incremental investment in small scale projects
would provide a bigger boost to productivity over the long term."
The new report also recommends the creation of a Council of the North with
responsibility for overseeing integration of regional activity and scrutiny of
Metro Mayors. The installation of a People of the North body is suggested as a
means to tackling skills shortages in the region.
A previously unreleased survey conducted by FSB members in the North of England
shows that, when asked which improvements associated with the Northern
Powerhouse would significantly benefit their firms, small business owners most
frequently identify better broadband (56%), better small business support (52%),
lower business rates (51%), improved road infrastructure (51%) and enhanced
mobile coverage (49%).
Phil McCabe added:- "With LEPs, local authorities and Metro Mayors all
working together to deliver the Northern Powerhouse, it makes sense to have a
Council of the North to advise on pan regional activity.
We have some significant skills gaps across the North West. Given that 1 in 5 UK
small business employers relies on EU workers, there is a chance Brexit could
exacerbate this issue. A dedicated body responsible for upskilling the North
will help mitigate that risk. Above all we need to move towards a situation
where people stop paying lip service to the Northern Powerhouse and start
delivering the enhanced connectivity, improved infrastructure and integrated
business support we were promised 3 years ago."