Northern leaders call for major interventions to drive Northern Powerhouse

Lord Kerslake

A far reaching report into the Northern Powerhouse has called for a range of initiatives to drive investment and wealth creation in the region.

The report, called ‘Prospects for the Northern Powerhouse – Towards An Industrial Strategy’, was launched today in Sheffield before an audience of senior business leaders and Northern politicians.

Its findings follow the largest ever gathering of pan-Northern and cross-sector business and public sector leaders in the UK, at the Northern Powerhouse Conference and Exhibition earlier this year.

The report is based on the outcomes of the conference and on two surveys – one of business leaders from across the country and one of business and public sector leaders who attended Manchester Central event.

The Ipsos MORI survey of UK-wide senior business figures identified investment in digital infrastructure, housing and airports as key priorities to accelerate economic growth in the North.

The report goes on to recommend that a Northern Powerhouse Digital Task Force be established to prioritise macro and micro connectivity investments, including 5G, above transport infrastructure in order to deliver early successes.

Other conclusions in the report, which was commissioned by the organisers of the Northern Powerhouse Conference and Exhibition, include:

  • The UK Government’s proposed Industrial Strategy requires clearer definition in a Northern context. It must provide consistent opportunities for engagement with business to be sustained in the long-term, especially to maximise opportunities in science and technologies.
  • Wealth creation must remain a central focus of the Northern Powerhouse. FTSE 500 Companies need to be incentivised to locate Head Offices to the region.
  • The Northern Powerhouse needs a clear objective to drive inclusive growth which all members of society can engage with and contribute to – “Making the North the most competitive UK region by 2030”.
  • Leadership is needed to ensure the North is represented in Brexit talks, and that an appropriate proportion of funding repatriated from Brussels is invested in the region, especially in east-west connectivity.

Other issues addressed in the report  include the importance of skills, energy, higher education, finance, the role of foreign direct investment and post-Brexit trading relationships.

The report follows comments by one of the principal architects of the Northern Powerhouse concept, Lord O’Neill, who has said that it is imperative that companies, places and individuals take ownership of the idea and not rely on Westminster political leadership.

Lord Bob Kerslake, shair of the Advisory Board for the Northern Powerhouse Conference, echoed those sentiments today by calling for increased leadership from the private sector to drive growth across the north.

He said: “The private sector’s role is absolutely central to the success of the Northern Powerhouse and one of the great strengths of the Northern Powerhouse conference is the fact that is does engage with businesses of all shapes and sizes across the North.

“We want a prosperous and inclusive North and that can’t be done without the involvement of the business sector. So what I would want to do with the business sector is to find the right mechanisms for them to be part of the policy thinking.”

Richard Green, director and business unit lead for the North of England at AECOM, said: “Given a  changing relationship with Europe it is more important than ever that the North projects itself in a global market with city leaders doing as much as possible to work beyond the areas of potential uncertainty over the next few years.”

Diarmuid Ryan, Partner at international law firm Squire Patton Boggs LLP, said: “It is important at this time that the Government hears from firms, irrespective of their market sector, about the perceived threats that trading with Europe from outside the EU could present, so that the UK negotiating position can be informed and bolstered. Companies must communicate clearly with their MPs and the wider political community as they will be the first to feel the impact of Brexit.”

Advisory Board member Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The Northern Powerhouse must focus on people and respond to their needs and wants.

“These much-needed infrastructure projects must be supported by investment in skills, training and education to be truly transformational and deliver a real difference for everyone who lives across the region.”

The 2018 Northern Powerhouse Conference and Exhibition takes place at Manchester Central on February 13 & 14 and is expected to attract thousands of delegates over the two days.

This year’s event attracted the leaders of all the North’s major cities, as well as Government ministers and international delegations from China and India.

The Northern Powerhouse Conference and Exhibition is a private company and not part of the UK Government.

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