THE Hexham Courant has backed a campaign calling for the next Prime Minister to Power Up The North.

The collaboration between newspapers and websites from our parent group Newsquest with other titles from JPI Media and Reach includes an open letter to the next Prime Minister, challenging Britain’s main political parties to commit to a package of policy measures to turbo-charge the North’s economy.

Now, at a time of unprecedented political uncertainty, we are calling on the main parties – and those who aspire to lead them – to spell out what they intend to do, and how they will work with others, to narrow the North-South divide.

With nominations closing this week in the Tory party contest to succeed Theresa May – and with every likelihood of a general election being called in the near future in an attempt to break the Parliamentary paralysis – every day of dither and delay risks leaving the North at an even greater disadvantage.

Politics can’t stay in limbo like this. Decisions need to be made and new infrastructure built so this region can attract national and international investment. There must be a new commitment by all parties to put this region first and start reversing decades of under-investment in key services.

And in the wake of a succession of critical reports and interventions by well-respected policy-makers and political grandees, we’re calling on each party – and leadership nominee in the Tory party’s case – to give formal backing to the Northern Powerhouse policy agenda and set out detailed plans to:

l Develop a bespoke Industrial Strategy for the North of England to enable every sector of the economy, from manufacturing to farming, to flourish;

l Provide Transport for the North with full policy – and financial – powers to overhaul the region’s road and rail network as a part of a wider environmental plan;

l Undertake to make Northern Powerhouse Rail a national priority;

l Advance devolution in the North-East, Cumbria, the North-West and Yorkshire so more decisions are taken locally;

l Make additional investment available for the North’s schools, colleges and universities to boost skills training;

l Set out a programme to build a new generation of social housing, and affordable homes;

l Accelerate investment in the North’s digital infrastructure, particularly in rural areas, and support creative industries.

We also hope the next PM – and future leaders – will elevate the post of Northern Powerhouse Minister to Cabinet status, with full powers, as a clear signal that they intend to take this region seriously.

The Hexham Courant and other newspapers are not alone in believing that the North has been treated as the ‘poor relation’ for too long by successive governments, Tory and Labour alike, who have allowed social, health and economic inequalities between this region – and the more prosperous London and South-East – to widen.

Hexham Courant

Power Up The North campaign