Phil Cusack Capita

NW 2015: Deliver on promises

It's looking as though the reindeers are going to have a bit of a task on hand dragging the new Northern Powerhouse behind them through the skies from Lapland, says Phil Cusack.

Perhaps they'll do it in pieces over the next few years, but the letter to Santa very firmly tells him that, because we've all been good boys and girls, we want to see something happening in 2015.

The Chancellor's now famous speech at MOSI in June whetted the appetites of those of us who have thought for years that investment in UK infrastructure was out of balance, to the detriment of us in the North. And, at the risk of being almost biblical at this time of year, he recognised the "brilliant star of city government" in our local hero Sir Howard Bernstein, who has argued long and hard for better connectivity up here.

So HS3 was born and the coming year is when we should start to see what this actually means to us and what economic benefit it can deliver, where it will go and how soon it will become a reality. It will also be the year where we learn whether our Northern cities really can work together and whether the spirit of collaborative working (could it be the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come?), that we've seen emerge within Greater Manchester through the combined authority, can stretch from Liverpool, across the Pennines, and up to the North East.

That speech also introduced other potential investments that have now been confirmed in the Autumn Statement and which should become firmer throughout the coming year. The Crick of the North has now become the Sir Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials science to add to Manchester University's development of the new engineering campus and the follow on to the Graphene Institute, creating what will be one of the leading universities in the world for ground breaking science.

The cultural initiatives have morphed into The Factory, a new home for the Manchester International Festival. So not only will next year bring the latest festival, it should start to establish its permanent future.

Intriguingly, the chancellor also introduced the concept of a Sovereign Wealth Fund for the North of England. We should expect, over the course of the year, to see precisely what that is likely to mean, what levels of funding it can offer and exactly how it will be administered.

And let's not forget Airport City. Will 2015 be the year that the new Metrolink connection helps to galvanise serious levels of international interest in bringing more investment to our leading provincial airport? We're going to have a new Mayor for Greater Manchester as well and we should start to see how that is going to affect regional transportation and strategic planning.

So there's a lot happening next year. Or at least there should be a lot happening. Let's hope that 2015 is not, in the words of Lewis Carroll, a year of "jam tomorrow, jam yesterday but never jam today". That's what we need from Father Christmas for next year; plenty of jam. And if we have a change of government, they need to keep spreading the jam too.

Phil Cusack is a director in Capita's property and infrastructure business and a former president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

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