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25.02.16

Northern Powerhouse success should be 'measured in years, not months' – Lord O’Neill

The Northern Powerhouse’s success should be “measured in years, not months” the commercial secretary to the Treasury will say today at the opening of the UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference & Exhibition in Manchester.

Lord O’Neill will say: “Cities in the north have a proud history and together their potential is huge: within 40 miles of where we are here in Manchester, you have Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool, Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire – a belt of cities and towns that contains ten million people – more than Tokyo, New York or London.

 “That could be game changing.

 “We know that we can revitalise the economy of the north. But we have to get this right, and we have to be in it for the long-haul.

 “It is just over 18 months since the chancellor first talked about building a Northern Powerhouse and those who criticise it from the sidelines every time an individual project suffers a setback fail to realise its size, its scope and its enormous potential.” 

The former chief economist at Goldman Sachs noted that this is “a big, systematic, long-term endeavour” to address a problem which has existed for at least half a century.

“That is why it is crucial that its success should be measured in years, not months,” he will say.

Lord O’Neill added that there will be some setbacks, as industries which were successful in the Industrial Revolution won’t automatically be successful in the 21st century.

“Adaptability is needed – as is diversification,” he stated. “I am confident that the North can become home to a new generation of winners.”

Meanwhile James Wharton, the parliamentary under secretary responsible for the Northern Powerhouse, met yesterday with northern business leaders to discuss ways to attract overseas investment. Richard Green, the design, planning and economics director at the Manchester office of AECOM, the company appointed by Fusion JV as lead designer in its bid for HS2 phase 1 work, said yesterday that direct foreign investment is crucial to the success of the Northern Powerhouse.

Wharton said: “The Northern Powerhouse is neither defined by nor controlled from Whitehall. It is a locally based project in which businesses and voters decide what is best for their communities, and how money is best spent.”

The government has already created new initiatives aimed at devolving more power and money to northern local government, including the creation of a new Mayoral Development Corporation to look at ways to revitalise the Tees Valley following the closure of the SSI steelworks.

However, Lord O’Neill’s remarks come amongst controversy about the use of the mayoral model in implementing the Powerhouse.

Green said more northern cities should adopt the mayoral governance model used in Manchester to increase their ability to deliver projects extending to wider commuting and economic city regions.

But yesterday Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said in a blog post that he would not be running in the city’s first mayoral election, and that he considered the new model “a step down” for the city.

In December, PSE reported from ‘The Future of the Northern Powerhouse and Local Government’ conference at the University of Salford.

 

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