Investment in skills is vital from an early age to raise productivity in Manchester and ensure the city realises its long-term economic potential, according to the Manchester Independent Economic Review.
The study of Manchester's city region economy was produced by an independent group of leading economic figures, who concluded:
- the MCR, due to its size, skills base, talent pool, connectivity and political and business structures, is 'best placed' to complement London and the South East compared to other major cities thereby helping the UK to realise its long term economic growth
- MCR firms do not take advantage of accessible links between sectors as effectively as firms elsewhere in the UK. As a result, their productivity is lower than should be expected given the size of MCR's economy
- in light of the ongoing regional skills gap, national and regional economic, social, transport, planning and housing policies need to be reassessed
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said: "We are delighted that this independent report reaffirms that Manchester is the UK city outside London with the greatest economic potential. That said, the report does raise a number of interesting challenges both for ourselves and our partners and we need now to have a real debate about practical steps we can take to fully realise this undoubted potential. We don't shirk from that. Our response will be an important element of the Greater Manchester Strategy, which aims to ensure a world-class city region at the heart of a thriving north.
"Successfully implementing this strategy will require local authorities, regional partners, businesses and national government to all play their part. The report echoes the consistent call of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities for greater devolution of power to a city-regional level."
The review also identified what is needed in the long-term to shape the city region's future development and recommendations from the reviewers' included:
- Neighbourhood-level intervention to improve education to bridge the skills divide; the key to closing this gap lies at the level of individual residents and the need to enhance their opportunities and skills
- A housing policy that emphasises demand conditions with the easing of planning restrictions
- A review of transport planning within the city region to improve connectivity, increase productivity and access to jobs and public services
- A halt to sector-led investment policies
- Innovation, trade and business links to be driven by the private sector
Steven Broomhead, chief executive of the North West Development Agency, said: "We agree that stronger and more cohesive city regions will drive our economy forward and that is why we are working ever closer with Greater Manchester to align our plans, priorities and investment decisions with the key priorities emerging in the Greater Manchester strategy, the MIER and the Regional Economic Strategy. Greater Manchester and the NWDA are focussed on the economic outcomes we aspire to for the city and the region and it is important that we continue to work in partnership to ensure we maximise the vast economic opportunities that exist."