The Power Up the North collaboration has been praised for shining a light on the urgent need to boost the region’s economy, as the Government’s commitment to closing the North-South divide is put under scrutiny.

Praise for the collaboration between Newsquest – owners of the News & Star, Whitehaven News and Times & Star – and rival publishers JPI Media and Reach, came from chair of the influential Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, Rachel Reeves, as it meets today (Wednesday) to examine the Government’s support for business and its efforts to attract inward investment in the North.

The enquiry is being held as the Northern Powerhouse, which is charged with driving the transformation of the Northern economy, marks its five-year anniversary.

Ms Reeves, who is MP for Leeds West, said: “Five years on from establishing the Northern Powerhouse, the time is right to carry out a health-check on the Government’s efforts to attract finance and investment to the North.

“The Government’s Industrial Strategy needs to go beyond big ideas and help turbocharge productivity and growth throughout the UK.

“The Power Up the North campaign has shone a light on the urgency of addressing the North-South divide and the need to get on with the policies and actions to truly capitalise on the talents of the people across the North.”

The Power Up The North collaboration is calling for drastic action from the Government and all major political parties to “reverse decades of under-investment in key services” in the region.

It has demanded detailed plans from all major parties on everything from a bespoke Industrial Strategy for the North, to transport investment, including making Northern Powerhouse Rail a national priority, to extra investment in the region’s colleges and universities to boost skills along with more devolved powers for Cumbria.

It has received the backing of prominent businesspeople including Lakes Distillery chairman Nigel Mills, the Institute of Directors and Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, and politicians including Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Vanessa Sims, group editor for Newsquest Cumbria, welcomed Ms Reeves comments and the committee’s inquiry.

“Power Up the North is gathering real momentum and we’re delighted it has received further high-profile praise and recognition,” she said.

“We are passionate about the communities which we both serve and live within, and see the huge potential for our businesses and people to achieve much more, with the right level of Government backing.

“It is crucial this is done properly, and all of us will be watching with interest to see the committee’s findings, and more broadly, what actions will take place to finally close the unacceptable North-South divide.”

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership – which brings together leading business figures and politicians along with major players including former chancellor George Osborne – will be giving evidence to the enquiry, which takes place in the Palace of Westminster.

He will argue that the North has a pivotal role to play in the success of the UK’s Industrial Strategy given its world-leading capabilities in advanced manufacturing and materials, energy, health innovation and digital, and repeat calls for further devolution of powers.

Speaking ahead of the committee meeting, he said: “Devolving further power and control to regions of the North could have a transformational effect increasing productivity so the North truly pulls its weight in economic terms.

“Alongside the Mayoral model, we need to consider fiscal devolution for areas which want it.”

He said the Adult Education Budget, among other responsibilities, should be handed to all combined authorities and raised concerns that economic growth in the North could be hit if, as many suspect, the Shared Prosperity Fund is be smaller than the EU and domestic UK funding streams it is set to replace.

“One potential solution is to fix the Northern Powerhouse’s current allocations as a minimum threshold which a future fund should not fall below if we do indeed exit the EU later this year, ensuring that vital funding such as for skills would not be lost,” he added.

Opinion on the Northern Powerhouse’s impact over the past five years is split in Cumbria, with some recognising its influence in securing the backing for initiatives including Transport for the North, and others critical of its lack of delivery on the ground.