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Northern economy could see " Victorian style growth" says think tank

The northern economy could experience economic growth on a scale "not seen since the Victorian era of grand municipal development" if timely investment in the region takes place, a new report suggests.

Commitments to major transport infrastructure spending, strong leadership and a sense of urgency to progress devolution are the "key ingredients for turning northern powerhouse rhetoric into national economic prosperity", the research by think tank IPPR North concluded.

The analysis, entitled Rhetoric to Reality: A business agenda for the Northern Powerhouse, argues the potential exists for businesses in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber to grow, boosting the economy through "properly directed investment".

It notes the economy of the three northern regions is worth #289 billion - "twice the size of Scotland's, and bigger than all the devolved nations' economies combined", adding: "If it were a national economy, the north of England would rank as tenth largest in the EU."

It added: "The economies of the five biggest cities together grew by 38.8 per cent in the 10 years to 2013 - more than the UK outside London (38.3 per cent).

Their populations grew by over half a million (5.4 per cent) in the 10 years to 2014, which is more than live in the city of Manchester."

It went on: "In the last year, the rate of job creation in areas such as North Eastern (4.8%) and Leeds City Region (4.0%) was more than double the national rate of 1.9% (which is matched by the North as a whole)."

The report argued a rebalanced economy can only be achieved through tackling "lagging" productivity, under-investment in transport infrastructure spending, poor connectivity between cities in the north and lower qualifications and skills levels.

It stated that the prospects for the northern powerhouse's long-term success "rest not on its political salience but on its potential to generate genuine economic prosperity for its businesses and citizens".

The report identified four key drivers of growth in the northern economy, including: infrastructure and connectivity, human capital, innovation and business support, plus leadership and policy development.

It argued: "The forthcoming spending review must make a step-change in commitment to the north of England, with large-scale government capital spending of up to £50 billion that can be used to leverage even greater private investment."

It added: "There is an urgent need (for) more detail and more action to support the pan-northern vision - 'one north, one economy' - to ensure that business, public and civil sectors are galvanised to act now to sustain the momentum behind devolution and take advantage of this unprecedented window of opportunity."

"The historical economic under-performance of the north of England is not natural, nor is it inevitable. We have seen past attempts at 'regional policy' fall by the wayside, but the northern powerhouse has momentum and has galvanised leaders in the North. "But investment, leadership and urgency are the key ingredients for turning northern powerhouse rhetoric into national economic prosperity. The momentum is building, the benefits are great - the opportunity is there to be seized for northern prosperity to create national prosperity."

– Ed Cox, director of IPPR North and co-author of the report

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CCTV released after Leeds sex attack

Detectives investigating a serious sex attack on a woman in Leeds city centre have released CCTV footage of the attacker.

The 24-year-old victim was approached by the man in Mark Lane at 5.05am on Friday, August 14.

He tried to engage her in conversation before subjecting her to a serious sexual assault.

She resisted and managed to escape.

He was described as black, aged 30 to 40, tall, with a shaved head. He was wearing a long black overcoat and black trousers.

Police say may have been carrying man's shoulder bag.

We believe he may have approached other women in the period leading up to this attack and we would like to hear from anyone who has encountered him.

– Detective Inspector John Dexter, Leeds District CID

Campaign to tighten eye tests for drivers

57% of drivers in Yorkshire are wearing the wrong eyewear prescription Credit: Press Association

New research from Asda Opticians shows that almost two thirds of drivers in Yorkshire are wearing the wrong eyewear prescription, and more than a third are driving with blurred vision.

They say their figures show that 3000 road accidents each year are attributed to poor vision of the driver.

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