Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is today launching a call for ideas on ways to turn the North of England into an economic powerhouse rivalling the biggest cities across the world.
He wants residents to suggest ways that the North can unite and play to its strengths and is launching a website allowing people to submit proposals.
The call to arms from the Liberal Democrat leader follows Conservative Chancellor George Osborne’s speech setting out plans for a “Northern powerhouse”, benefitting from Government investment in science and improved transport links.
Mr Clegg calls his inquiry the Northern Futures project and argues it is a new approach to policymaking which means that power is given to the people who live and work in the North rather than decisions being made by politicians and civil servants in Whitehall.
Ideas submitted will be discussed at a conference in November.
He said: “I need the readers of the Journal to help me come up with a plan to put the North of England in the driving seat of the British economy.
“Whether you’re a local teacher, business owner, cab driver or academic, we want to hear your suggestions.
“That’s why I have launched a new project called Northern Futures, where I am looking for the answer to a very specific but vitally important question: How do we build on the strengths in the North to create an economic core in the heart of the region that can compete with the biggest cities in the world?”
The Deputy Prime Minister praised a report published earlier this week by council leaders in the region, which called for transport investment of £15bn in the North, including a new rail line between Darlington and Newcastle.
He said: “I very much welcome the One North report published this week by local leaders of five of the North’s greatest cities, including Newcastle, who came together to set out ambitious proposals for a multibillion pound improvement to transport in the region.
“This is exactly the kind of ambition I am looking for in Northern Futures.”
A website had been set up allowing anyone to submit ideas, he said.
“This is part of something I have been talking about for years now: rebalancing the economy away from London. In July 2014, the national economy reached a turning point, finally getting back to the size it was before the financial crisis struck in 2008.
“The question now is how we make sure the whole country is geared up to take advantage of that, as markets around the world recover.”
Ideas can be submitted at http://northernfutures.dialogue-app.com.
Earlier this week, Mr Osborne set out his plan to create a Northern powerhouse “to rival London or New York or Tokyo.”
He said: “If we can bring our northern cities closer together – not physically, or in some artificial political construct – but by providing modern transport connections, supporting great science and our universities here, giving more power and control to civic government; then we can create a northern powerhouse with the size, the population, the political and economic clout, to be as strong as any global city.”
The Chancellor said he would “work on delivering” plans drawn up by local councils for up to £15bn investment to improve transport links in the North.
In November, Mr Osborne will set out proposals to give cities more autonomy and cash in return for them agreeing to transform local government by introducing directly-elected mayors.