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North West leaders ask PM to renew commitment to region

North West leaders among those lobbying for HS2 Photo: PA

Council leaders, elected mayors and Local Enterprise Partnership chairs from across the North West have written to new Prime Minister Theresa May urging her government to renew its commitment to helping the region reach its full potential.

The letter reflects on the successful co-operation across the North in developing transport initiatives and a shared economic narrative through the recently-published Northern Independent Economic Review and calls for the government to continue to work with the region.

It calls for HS2 to reach the North as soon as possible, for greater control of skills funding and training to ensure a workforce equipped for the needs of a growing economy and for further investment in research and culture.

The lead signatory to the letter is Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council.

May we first of all congratulate you on your appointment and offer you our support in taking the country forward. In that context, our particular interest is in the future of the North of England.

Over the last few years we have seen unprecedented co-operation in the North between local authorities and LEPs, across geographies and across party political boundaries.

We have established Rail North, a partnership with every local transport authority across the North andNorth Midlands in membership, first of all to work with the Department for Transport on the re-tendering of the northern and transpennine rail franchises, and now, from an office in Leeds, to share in the management of those franchises.

Building on work begun by our Northern cities, we have established a long-term vision for pan northern transport links - passengers and freight, rail, road, ports and airports.

This led to the creation of Transport for the North, now being established as a sub-national statutory body, and the Transport for the North Partnership Board, a vehicle for Northern local authorities and LEPs to work with DfT, Highways England, Network Rail and HS2 Ltd to develop that transport vision into a deliverable strategy.

Through the Northern Independent Economic Review (N.I.E.R) we have agreed an economic narrative for the North with four prime capabilities, energy, digital industries, advanced manufacturing and health innovation, alongside three enabling capabilities, financial and professional services, logistics and (higher) education, which coupled with our natural assets,give us the base to build our future economy.

Of course, as well as these pan-northern strengths, all parts of the north also have their own distinctive strengths.The N.I.E.R also identifies what we need to do to exploit these capabilities and build an economy that becomes a net contributor to UK plc. Above all we need to invest in transport,skills and innovation but we cannot do this without the support of Government.

In transport we need HS2 to reach the North as soon as it can, supported by radically improved inter-city road and rail links across the region, and significant investment in local transport plans to ensure every part of the region can benefit from these improved transport links.

We need to take, at Local Enterprise Partnership level, far greater control over the skills offer, to make sure we have a workforce attuned to the needs of a growing economy. Alongside transport and skills, we need investment amongst other things in research and in culture to help drive innovation.

Over the last few years, and particularly since the 2015 General Election we have valued the ministerial support we have received in helping us achieve our vision for the North. We hope you will commit your government to continue to work with us and to provide the investment, subject of course to the strategic investment case being made, to make sure the North can achieve its economic, social and environmental potential.

We are writing in similar terms to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State forBusiness, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Secretary of State for Transport, the Secretary ofState for Education, and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

– Open letter to Theresa May from North of England leaders