Right-wing think tank calls for Thatcherite policy in north of England

Report backed by northern Tory MPs calls for deregulated planning system and tax cuts for big businesses

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Monday 15 February 2021 09:55

A right-wing think tank has called for the government to unleash “radical” Thatcherite policies in the north of England and create a “northern Big Bang”.

The report by the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) says that only the private sector can boost the north's economy and calls for deregulation of the planning system, tax cuts for big business, and subsidies to attract “global capital”.

It has been backed by the Northern Research Group (NRG) of Tory MPs, who called for the government to “mirror the radicalism of Thatcher’s Big Bang in the Eighties”.

“At the last election, millions of northern voters broke with tradition by voting for the Conservative Party, in many cases for the first time," said Jake Berry, the Tory MP who chairs the NRG.

“The prime minister needs to recognise that they did so not only to deliver Brexit, but to voice the systemic disadvantages felt in many communities that were tired of being neglected in favour of London and the southeast.

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“The measures we have put forward will help the prime minister and this government to ‘level up’ the economy and help the north build back better as one of the most investible places in modern times.”

The report calls for major planning applications to be automatically approved after two months, and for northern businesses to be able to write off all capital expenditure against taxes for two years.

And it calls for the creation of an “initial investment incentive”, effectively a one-off cash payment to companies that set up shop in the region.

Any companies making an investment of £20m or more would be able to choose an “alternative, fast-track planning process for investors” that would let them bypass local democracy.

It is set to be launched at an online event on Monday.

Mr Berry added: “Voters want to see real change by the next election, the kind of change Labour failed to deliver on – change that only the private sector can bring on the scale that is required.

“However, the prime minister must embody Thatcher’s radicalism or risk waning public confidence in fulfilling his levelling-up agenda.”

Nick King, research fellow at the CPS, said: “This government has taken positive steps to deliver more public investment in infrastructure, but what the north needs is the scale of investment – and dynamism – that only the private sector can bring.

“There is a huge amount of domestic and global capital ready to be invested. Our recommendations are designed to make the north of England one of the most investable places on the planet and to unleash this capital through a northern Big Bang.”

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