Companies in the North of England growing at the fastest pace seen in any UK region, says leading business figure, in a sign that the economic recovery is broadening.

Companies in the North of England are now growing at the fastest pace seen in any UK region, one of the country’s leading business figures has said, in a sign that the economic recovery is broadening.

Ian Powell, the chairman of top-four accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) told The Telegraph that the firm’s regional offices in the North have experienced double-digit growth over the last year with a marked upswing in deals and a rise jobs.

“We see significant potential right across the UK with businesses of all sizes showing signs of increased confidence,” said Mr Powell. “UK regions are growing, with the North performing particularly strongly, and from our experience, the retail and manufacturing sectors being most active.”

Mr Powell attributed the growth on the commercial reinvention of major regional centres and the development of advanced manufacturing to replace traditional industries.

“Manufacturing and speciality engineering are undoubtedly enjoying a resurgence in Yorkshire and the North East. Onshoring processes which had previously been taken offshore, investing in capital and skills training – including apprenticeships – and a focus on exports are all features we are seeing,” said Mr Powell, who singled out Manchester, Leeds and Newcastles as cities where companies are experiencing rapid growth.

Yorkshire is now the fastest growing region for private equity deals, which trebled in the area in 2013, said Mr Powell.

“Mergers, regulation, digital and data analytic advice has all picked up as businesses across the regions look to expand and make bold moves to break into new markets,” he said.

Large accountancy firms such as PwC act as barometers for the economy and corporate activity. Chancellor George Osborne and the Government have placed encouraging private sector growth and a business-led recovery at the centre of their economic strategy as they seek to enforce austerity cuts elsewhere.

The remarks from PwC’s top executive in the UK on the burgeoning strength of manufacturing in the North and Midlands were echoed yesterday by Prime Minister David Cameron who said Jaguar Land Rover’s record breaking global sales were “great news for Britain”.

Nigel Wilcock, managing director of Cheshire-based regional development consultancy, Mickledore, said: “Many businesses are realising that lower salary and property costs outside of the City mean that business can achieve the same outputs but with a higher margin, whilst in addition the skills for many of the new infrastructure projects such as offshore marine, nuclear power, a resurgence in oil and gas and large transport projects are all found in the UK regions.”

But even though the big northern cities of Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle are doing relatively well, secondary locations such as Middlesbrough, Blackburn and Burnley are struggling.

“A wider distribution of economic growth has got to be achieved to increase the attractiveness of the regions to employees, if the pressure on public services, housing and infrastructure in the South East is to be relieved,” said Mr Wilcock.

The latest Lloyd Bank Commercial Banking Regional Purchasing Managers’ Index has also revealed record private sector activity in the West Midlands and a 49-month high in the North East.

The research showed that all regions were playing their part in driving the UK’s economic recovery with higher activity levels during the final quarter of 2013.

The index, which measures activity such as job creation, recorded an average reading of 61.0 from October to December, well in excess of the 50.0 value that separates growth from contraction.

[Telegraph News]