Lord Jim O'Neill, who serves on Shelter's housing commission, called for a 'profound shift to see social housing as a national infrastructure asset'

MIPIM UK: Rebalancing economy ‘more important than Brexit’

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Lord Jim O’Neill, economist and former junior Government minister, told an audience of Northern leaders last night to expect a “serious” response from the Government regarding the Northern Powerhouse, hinting “you are going to be surprised”.

O’Neill was the keynote speaker at a Northern Powerhouse drinks reception, hosted on the 42nd floor of London’s Leadenhall building by Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Newcastle.

O’Neill stepped down last month as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury with responsibility for the Northern Powerhouse, amid rumours that he and new Prime Minister Theresa May had disagreed about the Government’s approach to investment from countries such as China. O’Neill was given the Northern Powerhouse brief last year by then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

He used his speech to reassure the Northern attendees about the Northern Powerhouse agenda and said that “rebalancing the economy’s excessive dependence on London is more important than Brexit”.

“We won’t be able to see if the Northern Powerhouse is a success for at least two terms of Government. You can’t measure if the policies have had an impact overnight.

“For the next phase of devolving powers, the issue is not about whether Osborne is in Government, or if I’m a junior minister. It’s about people from the North taking ownership and going out of the comfort zone, and proving we can rebalance this country.”

He said that international interest in the Northern economy continued to be strong.
“The Chinese in particular love the Northern Powerhouse; it fits with their desire to shift things West. We are also pricking interest in the United States.”

Since May and her new cabinet took over earlier this year, there has been speculation that the Government is moving away from the pro-North agenda which dominated the rhetoric of former Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne.

However, O’Neill dismissed this view and said: “The new Government might not see the North with the same branding focus, but you are going to be surprised about how serious they are, about industrial strategy in particular, and just how far they are willing to go.”

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…won’t hold my breath – and will wager that after these “amazing” announcements the commuter train network across the north-west will be as woeful as it always has been – whilst the SE of England continues with its excellent services…..

By Developer

Believe it when we see it then….Will remember such when stuck in a hand me down train from the SE…..A conurbation the size of Greater Manchester for example, would have an underground rail system on the continent.

By Schwyz

A meeting about the Northern Powerhouse was held in LONDON! That’s what should not happen!

By Michael Bell

If these are exciting times why is Gatley born Jim no longer involved. Transport is pathetic, even in Greater Manchester. Look at Leeds, a city at the centre of 2 plus million people, with overpriced buses,as the only means of getting about. This is farcical in 2016. If they are so determined to re-balance our economy, cancel the 20 billion pounds earnarked for Crossrail 2 and give the money to the North and Midlands for their transport needs.I am sick of these platitudes from these Northerners, living in London. They don’t have to use the third rate services we have to use each day. He can spout about this until he is blue in the face. Where is the evidence?

By Elephant

Plus, what is going out of the comfort zone, supposed to me. That is patronising at the least. The comfort zone Mr. O’Neill is the South East, which has for centuries taken everyone else’s share of the investment. There would be none of this Devolution if this was 1916 and we still filling the Treasury with billions of pounds of money from our industry.

By Elephant

We’ve got local authorities that can’t fill potholes or decide to leave main carriageways with temporary chipping road surfaces with no white lining for months (A49 in Ashton-in-Makerfield (Wigan MBC)). How’s that to do with economic growth?

Actually, I can see the link with China, there.

By Mizzer

In 1916 local authorities had vastly more power and autonomy than they have now so ‘devolution’ already existed, Elephant. It’s only in the intervening period that central government has put the shackles on local government and clawed more and more powers and resources into the centre to compensate for its diminishing role and influence as the British Empire crumbled away (the civil service was invented to administer the Empire after all).

So when you look back at old photos and marvel at how well kept the public spaces were, at the extent of municipal tram and trolley bus systems, all the grand civic spaces and monuments and the vitality of local institutions this is largely the result of local municipal and commercial endeavour, before the twin assault from globalisation and central government robbed our towns and cities of their pride and their means to do much about the economic changes that were to hit them during the 20th century.

By City state

I take your point City state, but the North’s wealth was distributed around the country and our vast resources, were used to keep the country afloat. If we were so independent, why did London have an extensive Underground network built and Manchester did not? Only Liverpool of all the Northern cities, had an Underground railway, yet all the North’s cities at that time were churning out money like it was going out of fashion. It is similar to Scotland’s oil wealth more recently. Why, with the exception of Aberdeen has Scotland benefited so little from this resource? Yet in the 80s, so many big infrastructure projects happened in and around London.

By Elephant

London Underground like all the other heavy rail lines were privately funded originally. Liverpool does not have an underround railway, it had a couple of heavy commuter rail lines that terminated in the city centre that were necessarily placed underground as it was cheaper than bridging the Mersey. The services were linked up with the publicly funded Loop and Link lines in the 70s. As for the rest of your questions about historic taxation arrangements, I suggest you read some books – this is not the forum for that.

By City state

Citystate… s Liverpool DOES have an underground railway then? Thanks for clarifying that it does. Thanks.

By Justsayin

Liverpool Underground is a great asset, hopefully we’ll see it expanded now as promised, we’re so lucky to have it.

By John.