Delivering the Northern Powerhouse
This week’s Northern Transport Summit in Leeds should leave nobody in any doubt about the potency of the Northern Powerhouse as a vision for what our region wants to be.
Its attendance by two Metro Mayors, four council leaders, MPs, a Peer, business leaders, Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors – who all came together because of a fear that the Government is no longer committed to delivering what was promised by George Osborne – is testament to how one man’s idea can shape the aspirations of the North.
We will never know how much further ahead we would be if the former MP for Tatton was still in Government but he has left the Prime Minister in no doubt about what he thinks should happen next: invest in our region’s creaking transport infrastructure and prioritise Trans-Pennine connectivity.
Unified message for the Northern Powerhouse
His intervention combined with the unified message of Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram, Sir Richard Leese and the private sector at Wednesday’s summit, is a strong signal to the Government not to ignore the needs of the North and press ahead with delivering the Northern Powerhouse.
And there are some signs that the pressure could be working. The Prime Minister, Northern Powerhouse Minister and Business Secretary were all in Teesside to support a 25-year regeneration project and closer to home, Jake Berry was in Ellesmere Port to open a multi-million-pound energy centre.
With more Conservative MPs elected across the North earlier this year and 15 of the party’s top 50 targets up here, there is every political incentive (as well as economic merit) in the Government delivering on its promises.
Do we need a Council for the North?
This begs the question whether a Council for the North is needed to enable the region to ‘act as one voice’, particularly on transport matters. With Metro Mayors only three months old and a Government distracted by Brexit, do we need yet another organisation on top of Business North, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Transport for the North, Rail North, LEPs, and Combined Authorities to make our voice heard?
I’m not convinced. The Government is only just getting used to the devolved political landscape that George Osborne set in motion. Not to mention the further powers set to be devolved to Transport for the North next year. The Northern Powerhouse will remain on the Government’s agenda precisely because of the momentum that it has built amongst northerners. It’s down to all of us to keep banging the drum and help make it a reality.
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