George Osborne will continue to champion the Northern Powerhouse initiative in his new role as chairman of government-backed think tank the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.
The job will see the former chancellor hold central government to account over policy decisions affecting the North of England, by bringing together local business owners and policy makers to commission research and share ideas about the Northern Powerhouse plan.
Sajid Javid the government’s former business secretary and incumbent communities secretary welcomed Osborne’s move from the House of Commons backbenches and his aim to accelerate growth in the North and ease the economic divide between there and the South.
“This government realises the huge untapped potential of our great northern towns and cities. That is why I warmly welcome the launch of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Javid said in a statement.
I hope it will become an important part of the debate and help us do all we can to further boost jobs, growth and opportunities in the North of England.
The think tank will need to change the outlook of small business owners whom, according to research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in February this year, remain split over the potential for success of such a body.
The FSB found that only half of small business owners in the North of England believed the Northern Powerhouse concept would be able to offer a positive impact.
Local authorities in the North of England have been encouraged to invest further in small businesses, after research by IT services aggregator Streamwire found that 15 of the 34 Northern Powerhouse councils were not spending any of their IT service budgets with smaller contractors.
Commenting on the findings, Streamwire CEO Anne Stokes said: Councils can play a powerful role by using budgets to procure from small, regional businesses.
unless local councils take up this mantle, the government’s goal of building an economic stronghold in the North is surely going to be difficult to achieve sustainably.