Our Friends in the North: FSB Talks Northern Growth Potential

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is organising a series of policy events in the North of England to find out what Northern businesses need to grow and increase productivity, making the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ a reality.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the northern economy and I am very pleased the FSB is taking such a proactive role in making sure they are at the heart of the debate,” said Lord O’Neill, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, who is one of those tasked with driving the Northern Powerhouse forward.

Rebalancing the Economy 

“Building the Northern Powerhouse is vital to the government’s plans to rebalance the economy and end the decades-old gap between the north and south,” said Lord O’Neill. “Businesses are at the heart of this work and that’s why we’re investing in infrastructure, science and skills across the north as well as devolving powers to local leaders.”

John Allan, National Chairman for the Federation of Small Businesses and Ambassador for the 2016 International Festival for Business, said: “Having visited much of the North of England in my role as IFB Ambassador, it is clear there is growing ambition and opportunity.”

Mike Cherry, Policy Director for the Federation of Small Businesses, said the FSB welcomes the plans for a Northern Powerhouse: “The North/South divide has long been a stumbling block for the UK economy… realising this vision will require increased investment and infrastructure spending in the North of England to boost regional growth, nurture a thriving business sector and get much needed transport connection improvements back on track.”

Focus on Manchester

The FSB is holding a roundtable event in Greater Manchester on Tuesday 14 July titled, ‘The Northern Powerhouse: how do we help small businesses fulfil their potential?

“Greater Manchester gained a cascade of devolved powers in the Queen’s Speech this year, when these begin Greater Manchester will be the test bed for regional devolution. If successful, this could be the blueprint for the rest of England,” said Mike Cherry.

“We look forward to working closely with local leaders and businesses in Greater Manchester and across the North of England to build a Northern Powerhouse that has the potential to generate lasting economic returns for the North.”

FSB key recommendations for a strong Northern Powerhouse

Small Businesses Need to Be Heard
Mr. Allan believes small businesses in the north need to be “at the heart of the debate,” and wants to ensure they are “given the support and backing they need by local and national government to grow and invest.”

The UK road network must be upgraded

A new tunnelled trans-Pennine road route would be particularly beneficial.

More details on HS3 should be made available

The FBS are concerned that delays to the electrification of key Northern rail routes will hold back regional growth.

A Universal Service Obligation (USO) for broadband should be introduced and set at 10Mbps, and should explicitly include small businesses.

Improved engagement between Local Enterprise Partnerships and their small business communities to promote growth and jobs.

Improved access to finance by improving credit data sharing, considering initiatives such as credit ‘passports’, and ensuring equal access to the payment system by all market participants.

Support regional airports in the North as part of a wider transport strategy, and expand Heathrow swiftly.

Promote vocational education and encourage firms to identify and invest in staff training.