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Powerhouse Problems

This week a report has been published which highlights the scale of the task facing the Government if it is to find success with the Northern Powerhouse agenda. The report has been published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and shows that 10 of the UK’s 12 town and cities which are suffering from the most significant economic decline are in the North.

It says that areas such as Rochdale, Burnley, Bolton, Blackburn and Hull are being hit the hardest, with Josh Stott, the policy and research manager for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, stating:

‘I think the vision of a Northern Powerhouse is right but it has been founded on deals struck behind closed doors rather than a coherent strategy or delivery.’

Rochdale Council Chief Executive, Steve Rumbelow, was quick to defend the town, saying that the data used was ‘out of date’ and ‘did not take into account that we have seen hundreds of new jobs created and safeguarded in the past 12 months.’

The comments from the foundation will no doubt also agitate the Government, with the Northern Powerhouse minister James Wharton, refusing to comment on the report’s findings. But the report has highlighted one of the big concerns about the Northern Powerhouse agenda, and that is how it will improve the region as a whole. The idea that the big cities can attract high-quality, global investment, which will in turn benefit other smaller, surrounding towns is a big ask. That is not to say it isn’t possible, but with so many areas looking to pick up the scraps of investment brought in by the major cities, it will take an awful lot of this type of investment for the plan to work.

Furthermore, the infrastructure problems for the region are well-documented, and it will be difficult for areas such as Bolton, which is only 10 miles away from Manchester as the crow flies, to attract the size of investment needed to reverse the decline when transport links, in particular by road, can make journey times between the two areas unnecessarily long, especially at peak times.

Arguably, one of the most significant plus points of the Northern Powerhouse so far is that it appears to have bridged the gap between parties, businesses and investors alike, but as people now start to look for the benefits behind the rhetoric, it will be interesting to see what has happened since the Chancellor first announced the scheme almost two years ago.

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“The idea that the big cities can attract high-quality, global investment, which will in turn benefit other smaller, surrounding towns is a big ask. That is not to say it isn’t possible, but with so many areas looking to pick up the scraps of investment brought in by the major cities, it will take an awful lot of this type of investment for the plan to work”

And when one of its biggest cities, Liverpool, is being systematically locked out of major city scale plans and in turn made to feed off “scraps” itself, with entirely predictable results, the whole northern powerhouse agenda is exposed for what it really is.

By Mike

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