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The Northern Powerhouse and clarifying northern policy

Sam Plum, chief executive of Barrow Borough Council spoke to PSE about the Northern Powerhouse and why it needs more clarity if it’s going to influence local strategy.


The Northern Powerhouse as a concept gives weight to national and regional policy, which in Barrow means we can have joined up conversations with different government officials about our priorities and industrial strategy, improving productivity and potential in our area.

A big issue for us is feeling disconnected from the rest of the country, so connectivity in road and rail is vital. We’ve got negative land values in some areas; especially old industrial contaminated Brownfield sites.

The current treasury Green Book doesn’t go in our favour, so we struggle to get public sector investment into some of our sites that need development. We need them to look at Green Book and the formulas for area like Barrow with high level band A council tax properties.

We’re in the starting blocks for both Future Towns Fund and Future High Streets, which could mean £50m worth of new funding, which - given the last ten years - is a major investment of real cash into our area.

It would give us a huge amount of opportunity, so we are now working at full speed to try and get our business cases and investment plans developed, with as much local involvement from local people as possibly can. It’s not all plain sailing but were working flat out to get there.

If they’re giving places in the North that have been hit the hardest an extra leg up, it’s really important that we capitalise on those funding streams. Getting the formula right for the future funding of local governments is slightly more important, but we will take what we can get.

The Northern Powerhouse is a nebulous concept, it’s not a structure, so if I was in charge of it, I would try and be clearer on a macro-regional footprint about what we mean by it. What are our priorities? What are the strategies? So that it’s not just a buzzword, we need some substance behind it.

The work that’s being done to bring together the 11 LEPs that make up the North could really start to galvanise into some kind of prospectus or strategy, which would give us a place to hang our own plans on.

At the moment, if I’m looking at industrial strategy, productivity, skills, infrastructure and connectivity, I will look to the LEPS and the national strategy. Northern Powerhouse isn’t part of my thought process, I go straight to national policy because there isn’t a clear northern policy yet.



On the 4th and 5th of March in Manchester, the EvoNorth conference is uniting hundreds of chief executives, directors and senior managers from across the Northern Powerhouse responsible for the delivery of transformational public services to the millions of citizens located in the North.

Over the two days delegates get to collaborate and share best practice through a series of seminars, panel discussions, workshops and innovation hubs focusing on improved outcomes and transformational public services and get to hear from an eclectic mix of speakers and panellists including Sir Merrick Cockell from Localis and the UK Municipal Bonds Agency; Cllr James Jamieson of the LGA; Tim Wood, Northern Powerhouse Rail Director, Transport for the North; Roger Marsh, Chair of NP11 and many more... 

Click here to secure your subsidised tickets to this CPD accredited event for only £89.95 each and save over £200.


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