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02 February 2016

Smaller businesses set out key priorities for Northern Powerhouse

New research conducted for the Federation of Small Business (FSB) Policy Conference recorded very high levels of awareness of the Northern Powerhouse among small business owners in the North of England. Over nine in ten (93%) small business owners claimed to know about it – although a fifth (21%) of those said they were not clear what the concept meant in practice.

The FSB survey also found half of small businesses in the North of England (50%) think the Northern Powerhouse concept will have a positive impact on their business. However, almost a fifth (16%) Northern firms still need to be persuaded about how the Northern Powerhouse will positively impact their business.

With the implications of greater devolution of powers in England under debate at the FSB Policy Conference, FSB also asked businesses for their views about what the priorities should be for the Northern Powerhouse to succeed.

FSB found significant support right across the UK for increased local control over public spending with one in three businesses (36%) listing this as a priority. This increased to two in five (40%) among businesses in the North of England. However, there was less support for local tax setting powers with just 16% of UK businesses backing the idea.

Businesses in the North of England indicated their top priorities for the Northern Powerhouse are:

1) Greater local control over spending (40%)
2) Investment in digital infrastructure (37%)
3) Investment in inter-city transport (37%)
4) Investment in workplace skills (36%)

Commenting on the results Mike Cherry, FSB Policy Director 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.”


The FSB Policy Conference is taking place on Tuesday 02 February 2016 and is being held at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Westminster, London SW1P 3EE.

The conference will include three high level sessions which will focus on: rebalancing the UK economy; creating a high-growth global future for small businesses; and growing tomorrow’s entrepreneurs - innovation and competition.

Hosted by award winning BBC Breakfast business presenter, Steph McGovern, the conference line-up of leading business figures includes:

  • John Cridland CBE, Chairman, Transport for the North and former Director General of the CBI
  • Lord Adonis, Chairman, National Infrastructure Commission
  • Sir David Higgins, Chairman, High Speed 2 Ltd
  • Dr Frederik Pferdt, Head of Innovation & Creativity Programs, Google
  • Ron Emerson, Chairman, British Business Bank
  • Alex Chisholm, Chief Executive, Competition and Markets Authority
  • Claudia Harris, Chief Executive, Careers and Enterprise Company
  • Sir Brendan Barber, Chairman, ACAS
  • John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive, Heathrow Airport
  • David Halpern, Chief Executive, The Behavioural Insights Team, formerly the “Nudge Unit” in 10 Downing Street
  • Lord Haskins, Chair, Humber Local Enterprise Partnership
  • Edward Twiddy , Chief Innovations Officer, Atom Bank
  • Irene Graham, Chief Executive, Scale-up Institute
Attendance is by invitation only. If you would like to attend please contact the FSB press office: press@fsb.org.uk

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