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Manchester, time to lead a Northern Congress?

The recent debate around Government announcements for Crossrail 2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail has led the elected Mayor for Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to highlight how the North loses out in parliament to the South in transport network investment.

Analysis undertaken by the think tank IPPR North details that £1,943 is being spent per person in London on current or planned projects compared with just £427 in the North.

Andy Burnham’s remit is to fight for the best interests for Greater Manchester, and his previous life as an MP empowers him to undertake this via parliamentary routes not previously available. Success for Manchester will be greater if the other great cities of the North also succeed. It could be suggested that the economic benefits to Manchester of prosperous economies in Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield far outweigh the benefits of a prosperous south. The case for greater integration – physical and digital communication between Liverpool and Hull, connecting Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield on the way is unassailable.

To achieve significant progress in the lifetime of any parliament – let alone the shorter period still before which the Mayor has to stand for re-election – presents a challenge.  A suggested way forward could be for Andy Burnham to use his influence to assemble a Congress of the North – comprising all MPs with constituencies in each of the major towns and cities.

The objective of the Congress would be to advance the interests shared by all MPs to promote investment in infrastructure within and between each of them. The voice of the Congress would be heard in Westminster, and its platform would be the basis from which the North could begin to expect substantial funds in order to create a dynamic and advanced economy. One that would advance the national objective to compete on a global scale.

Such investment now would pave the way for the North to become self-sufficient and make net contributions from the whole of the region to the betterment of the UK economy as a whole.  One of the objectives for Manchester as part of the Devolution Deal was for the city to become a net contributor to the Exchequer.

Manchester is well placed to lead the North in the development of this Congress and – under its directly elected Mayor – utilise its presence in Westminster to help fulfil the promise of a Northern Powerhouse.

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