“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy and their support is crucial to help build the Northern Powerhouse. It is less than two years since I first set out ambitious plans to make this a reality and it’s fantastic that so many small firms know about and support our plans. As the FSB research recognises, our devolution revolution is already empowering local areas, in the most fundamental shake-up of the way the country is governed in a generation.” Chancellor George Osborne.
So how much small business actually know the details of Mr. Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse project? This was something a recent survey carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) Policy Conference attempted to find out.
What they discovered was that many small Northern businesses, around 93% of those surveyed, were very aware of the Northern Powerhouse concept, but 21% also said they were unclear about how the Chancellor’s proposals would directly affect them.
Further, to this, the FSB survey discovered that only 50% of small businesses in the North believed the Northern Powerhouse would have a positive effect on their businesses. Leaving around 16% still needing to be convinced of the positive benefits to be gained from the proposal.
Businesses were also asked about what they considered were the priorities for the Northern Powerhouse to succeed. An increase in local public spending control was seen as a key issue in the UK, with 36% of small businesses listing this as a priority. In the North of England, this figure went up to 40%. They also highlighted the areas they considered to be top priorities for the Northern Powerhouse to flourish as:
A: Greater local control over spending (40%)
B: Investment in digital infrastructure (37%)
C: Investment in inter-city transport (37%)
D: Investment in workplace skills (36%)
Summing up the findings of the survey, FSB policy director, Mike Cherry said: “The concept and goals of the Northern Powerhouse have gained widespread support and awareness among businesses across Northern England – but we now need to see tangible delivery and results for this support to continue and grow. Businesses want the ongoing political discussions about devolving powers to translate into real investment in the infrastructure Northern businesses need. The way local authorities invest must reflect the priorities of local job-creating entrepreneurs. Our research shows that firms want to see a focus on improved transport links, digital infrastructure and workforce skills. Continued support for the concept of the Northern Powerhouse from the business community will depend on delivery of these priorities.”